Somewhere upwards of 50,000 people a year die of kidney failure. And they're not always some aging patient waiting in a nursing home. They're your friend, your neighbor, your relative.
Per DailyTech Dr. Shuvo Roy from UCSF is working on developing an artificial kidney that can be implanted in the body. Despite the fact that we all have a spare kidney, most of us a spare functional kidney we don't need, many people who suffer from kidney failure do not get the organs they need. They spend many years undergoing often daily dialysis treatments and when that is no longer effective enough to balance the body's water, minerals and waste patients must resort to hemodialysis as a last resort. More than fifty years ago, patients with renal failure who were unable to get transplants would die. Today there are options, but many patients still die while on dialysis because the treatments are no longer as effective as an actual working organ.
For now, Dr. Roy's artificial kidney is so large as to fill a whole room. He hopes to make it small enough that it can be implanted as well as biocompatible so patients do not suffer the effects of the body's rejection of non-compatible kidneys. Even if he is not successful in all of his endeavors it would still be a huge accomplishment to have what might basically become a portable kidney, even if external. For now dialysis patients must either have expensive equipment in their homes and the process can take from a few hours to 10 hours at a time. Or the patient must take frequent trips to a dialysis center. Only 35% of patients on dialysis survive more than five years, which is the average waiting time for a kidney. Here's to hoping Dr. Roy is successful.