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Implantable Artificial Kidney Powered By The Patient’s Heart

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Using a microchip called the “silicon nanotechnology,” the bio-hybrid device mimics a real kidney and can keep patients off dialysis.

Scientists developed the first implantable artificial kidney in the world. The artificial kidney contains a microchip filter and living kidney calls that can run using the patient’s heart.

The bio-hybrid kidney mimics the real organ by removing salt, water and waste products to keep patients from relying on dialysis. At the heart of the artificial kidney lies the microchip called silicon nanotechnology.

Each artificial kidney contains 15 microchips in layers that are used as filters and a support system wherein the living cells will be placed. Dr. William H. Fissell IV explained that kidney cells can be grown in a laboratory dish and nurtured into a bioreactor of living cells. This will then become the ‘Santa Claus’ membrane that can distinguish ‘naughty’ and ‘nice’ chemicals.

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“Then they can reabsorb the nutrients your body needs and discard the wastes your body desperately wants to get rid of,” said Fissell, an associate professor of medicine and nephrologist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The artificial kidney works with the patient’s own blood flow. The scientists are faced with the challenge of getting the blood inside a blood vessel and move it through the bio-hybrid device without damage or clotting.

Fissell is in collaboration of Amanda Buck, a biomedical engineer at Vanderbilt, to analyze the potential areas in the device that can lead to blood clotting.

“It’s fun to go in and work in a field that I love, fluid mechanics, and get to see it help somebody,” said Buck who creates computer models to modify the channel shapes in order to improve blood flow. Using 3-D printers, they test the design prototype in order to get the smoothest blood flow.

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The bio-hybrid device can help keep kidney patients off dialysis. Initial clinical studies are scheduled to start towards the end of 2017. Fissell and his study partner Shuvo Roy from the University of California at San Francisco received a four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health amounting to $6 million for the project.

Kidney failure patients require organ transplant; however, there is always a shortage in kidney donors. The U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network said that there are over 100,000 American transplant patients waiting for a new kidney but in 2015, only 17,108 received a new one.

The National Kidney Foundation reported that over 460,000 people in the U.S. have last-stage renal disease. About 13 kidney patients die every day while waiting for a transplant.

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