The Kidney Project is developing an implantable bioartificial kidney, the size of a coffee cup, which filters toxins from the blood, while also providing other biological functions of a healthy kidney.
The key to the implantable artificial kidney is a microchip, Fissell said.“It’s called silicon nanotechnology. It uses the same processes that were developed by the microelectronics industry for computers,” said Fissell.
The chips are affordable, precise and make ideal filters. Fissell and his team are designing each pore in the filter one by one based on what they want that pore to do. Each device will hold roughly fifteen microchips layered on top of each other.
The microchips are also the scaffold in which living kidney cells will rest, said Fissell. His team is using live kidney cells that will grow on and around the microchip filters. The goal is for these cells to mimic the natural actions of the kidney.
“We can leverage Mother Nature’s 60 million years of research and development and use kidney cells that fortunately for us grow well in the lab dish, and grow them into a bioreactor of living cells that will be the only “Santa Claus” membrane in the world: the only membrane that will know which chemicals have been naughty and which have been nice. Then they can reabsorb the nutrients your body needs and discard the wastes your body desperately wants to get rid of,” said Fissell.
Because this bio-hybrid device sits out of reach from the body’s immune response, it is protected from rejection.
“The issue is not one of immune compliance, of matching, like it is with an organ transplant,” said Fissell.
My grandson experienced kidney failure at age 15. We knew his kidneys were failing when he was around 10 years old, we just didn't know when it would happen. He received a kidney transplant at the University of Utah in Salt Lake.
We stayed at the Ronald McDonald house for two months while the transplant team stabilized his transplant. I have only kind words for the folks at the Ronald McDonald house. It's a life saving facility with close ties to the Mormon Church in Salt Lake.
The transplant lasted 5 years and he began to develop some devastating symptoms. Unfortunately, he was having severe reactions to the anti-rejection drugs. As soon as we realized what was happening, there were unpleasant choices all around. He couldn't survive the devastating effects of the anti-rejection drugs, if we discontinued them, the otherwise healthy kidney would fail. We removed him from the drugs. The kidney died, became necrotic and had to be removed.
Now he's been on dialysis three years with no hopes for a transplant because of his reaction to the anti-rejection drugs.
Trials are now underway for the implantable, bio-mechanical kidney.
This is a game changer for thousands of people. Let us all say a little prayer that this new artificial kidney is a viable alternative to dialyses and transplant of a living kidney.