Right Turn: Bio-hybrid device mimics kidney to remove need for dialysis

Author: Stacey Johnson, 03/04/16

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.



Our regular feature, Right Turn, appears every Friday and we invite you to submit your own blog to info(at)ccrm.ca. We encourage you to be creative and use the right (!) side of your brain. We dare you to make us laugh! Right Turn features cartoons, photos, videos and other content to amuse, educate and encourage discussion.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section.

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Stacey Johnson

Stacey Johnson

For almost 20 years, Stacey has been providing strategic communications counsel to government, corporate, technology and health organizations. Prior to that, Stacey was at the CTV Television Network, first as a researcher, then as a story producer for “Goldhawk Fights Back,” a special ombudsman segment that aired weekly on the National News and Canada AM. Before joining CCRM as the Director, Communications and Marketing, Stacey was the Director of Communications for the Canadian Arthritis Network. Stacey is editor of Signals. You can follow Stacey on Twitter @msstaceyerin.
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