There are over 100 thousand people awaiting a kidney transplant in the United States, and someone is added to that list every fourteen minutes . The average wait-time for a kidney is between three and five years, and thirteen people die every day waiting to receive a transplant. The organ shortage in the United States leaves thousands of patients on dialysis while they wait to receive a new kidney, but scientists may have solved this problem by developing the world’s first artificial kidney.
The Kidney Project
William Fissel from Vanderbilt University and Shuvo Roy from the University of California, San Francisco have launched the Kidney Project to address the shortage of kidney donations in the United States .
They have developed an artificial kidney that uses living kidney cells along with specialized microchips that are powered by the heart to perform the actions of a healthy 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,” explained Fissell in a recent article published by Research News Vanderbilt. The artificial kidney can reliably distinguish between waste chemicals and nutrients that your body needs and only requires common surgery to be inserted into the body.
What Does Your Kidney Do?
Your kidneys perform a variety of functions that are vital to your life, including:
- maintaining overall fluid balance. The kidneys make sure that your extracellular fluid (aka your blood plasma) does not become too diluted or too concentrated .
- regulating and filtering minerals from blood. Specifically, the kidneys are responsible for maintaining constant levels of important minerals like sodium, potassium and calcium.
- filtering waste materials from food, medications, and toxic substances. The kidneys filter out waste products and environmental toxins into your urine to be excreted.
- creating hormones that help produce red blood cells, promote bone health, and regulate blood pressure
If your kidneys fail, it means they are no longer able to filter waste products from your blood. Dangerous levels begin to accumulate and your body’s chemical makeup becomes unbalanced .