We have some pretty startling figures when it comes to the dreaded 'waiting list' of organ transplant patients. In a country like U.S. with presumed advanced healthcare systems, only 15 percent of severely affected patients could receive transplanted kidneys, with the other 92,000 patients being left in the dark. However, the real predicament lies not in the scarcity of kidneys, but it rather alludes to the incapability of the scientific community to come up with an effective yet portable alternative solution for kidneys. That is up till now; because, researchers at UCSF may have finally come up with a credible device that would deliver its functions as a full fledged artificial kidney.
As a part of the program of 'Innovation Pathway', this new conception has long been in a development phase with an aim to eschew the cumbersome process of dialysis. Finally, the scientists have come up with a definitive result that entails an implantable artificial kidney performing the water-balancing and metabolic functions of its natural counterpart.
Touted as a mechanical device with dynamic components, the contraption actually utilizes lab-grown cells and nanofilters that remove blood toxins. Conveniently, the whole system is autonomous, with no requirement of external power and cords. In fact, it is the body's blood pressure that aids in the filtration process.
However, the scientists were quick to confirm that this device isn't an exact clone of kidney. One of the major distinctions is that it can't produce erythropoietin, a natural chemical that helps in revitalizing red blood cell production. But, this problem can be solved by intake of drugs, as in the case of dialysis patients.
Moreover, it is the future scope of things that this invention has the potential to improve upon. For example, transplanted kidneys have average lifespan of around 12 years, while this device can theoretically last forever. Of course, the technology's commercialization would still take some time before emerging in the medical market. But, according to the researchers, the cost factor (of around $30,000) will more or less be the same as compared to the procedure of kidney transplants.