Last week, I wrote about Dr. Leon Bellan’s creative solution to engineering artificial blood vessels for lab-grown organs: cotton candy! As much as I was impressed with his out-of-the-box thinking, I also really liked the excellent video produced by Vanderbilt University (VU), where Dr. Bellan runs his lab.
So I went hunting for other VU videos featuring regenerative medicine and found the work of Dr. William H. Fissell IV, a nephrologist and associate professor of medicine who has developed a unique implantable artificial kidney with microchip filters and living kidney cells that will use a patient’s heart to supply the power to operate the device. Bingo.
On VU’s website, Dr. Fissell is quoted saying: “We are creating a bio-hybrid device that can mimic a kidney to remove enough waste products, salt and water to keep a patient off dialysis.” And all of this is done using silicon nanotechnology, “the same processes that were developed by the microelectronics industry for computers,” explains Dr. Fissell.
Dr. Fissell uses those microchips to act as the scaffolds upon which living kidney cells will live in the body. These cells will then mimic how a human kidney behaves. His artificial kidney could one day help hundreds of thousands of patients who are waiting for a kidney transplant and save billions in health care costs. In Canada alone, dialysis costs the health care system $2.2 billion annually.
In the United States, where the population is 10 times the size of Canada’s, an estimated 13 people die every day waiting for a new kidney, according to the National Kidney Foundation, and in the European Union, an estimated 4,100 patients died in 2013.
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