“University of California San Francisco Scientists Develop Bioreactor Device Mimicking Key Kidney Functions”
Researchers at the University of California San Francisco have achieved a significant breakthrough with the development of a bioreactor device. This innovative device utilizes laboratory-cultured human kidney cells to replicate crucial kidney functions.
The potential of this device, as envisioned by the scientists, is groundbreaking. It holds the promise of liberating individuals from the burdens of regular dialysis treatments and the need for immunosuppressive drugs following kidney transplants.
Remarkably, the scientists have successfully conducted week-long trials in pigs, with no apparent side effects or complications reported.
According to a statement on the university’s website, this bioreactor device operates inconspicuously in the background, akin to a pacemaker, without triggering an immune response in the recipient.
The ultimate goal of this pioneering research is to populate the bioreactor with various kidney cells capable of performing vital functions such as fluid regulation and hormone secretion to manage blood pressure. This bioreactor would be coupled with a blood-waste filtration device. The overarching objective is to create a human-scale artificial kidney, a substantial improvement over conventional dialysis, which merely serves as a life-sustaining measure for those with kidney failure. In the United States alone, over 500,000 people rely on frequent dialysis treatments. While many seek kidney transplants, the scarcity of donors means that only about 20,000 individuals receive transplants each year. An implantable artificial kidney could be a game-changer for these patients.
To ensure seamless integration, the scientists engineered the bioreactor to establish direct connections with blood vessels and veins, allowing for the transport of nutrients and oxygen, closely resembling the function of a transplanted kidney. Importantly, silicon membranes shield the kidney cells within the bioreactor from potential attacks by the recipient’s immune cells.
In their initial tests, the research team utilized a specific kidney cell type known as proximal tubule cells, responsible for regulating water and salt levels. Notably, co-author H. David Humes, MD, from the University of Michigan, had previously employed these cells to provide life-saving assistance to dialysis patients in intensive care units.