Kidney health care and treatment concept on a scientific background

Researchers around the world are working to make the treatment of kidney failure easier and more accessible — including by developing an artificial kidney.

Dialysis treatment has remained largely unchanged for the last 50 years, but researchers have recently started exploring a variety of innovative kidney failure treatments ranging from more portable dialysis devices to artificial kidneys. While there is still a lot of work to be done before these products become widely available, these developments are promising and exciting.

Developments in Treating Kidney Failure

Around the world, physicians, bioengineers, and entrepreneurs are all working to revolutionize treatment options for kidney failure. Most are focused on creating portable dialysis devices, and one team is even developing an artificial kidney that could be surgically implanted into a person with kidney failure to replace the non-functioning kidneys.

All of these treatments aim to address the longstanding inconvenience of dialysis. Dialysis is a lengthy process that saps patients of both time and physical energy, and patients who have to undergo dialysis often feel it is a significant interruption to their normal lives. That’s why several groups around the world are working to develop dialysis machines that could either be kept at a patient’s home or could even be carried around with them. The issue is that dialysis has a huge external water need, which is why it is currently only available at clinics.

Fortunately, the challenge of water is one that researchers are tackling head-on. In the U.S., Singapore, and elsewhere, researchers are developing different methods of avoiding the need for an external water supply so that they can make dialysis devices portable. Their solutions, which currently range in size from fitting in a suitcase to fitting in a backpack, work by filtering and recirculating a small amount of water. With these devices, patients would be able to undergo dialysis daily, which would make the experience less intensive and tiring given that it would more closely replicate the typical activity of kidneys, which are filtering blood at all times.

Another major development in the treatment of kidney failure is occurring at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. There, researchers have bypassed external devices and instead focused on creating a kidney prototype that will hopefully be surgically implanted in a patient’s body. Because the artificial kidney would be attached to key arteries and powered by blood pressure, it would not require a pump like standard dialysis machines.

The researchers are currently working to secure sufficient funding to manufacture the artificial kidney on a larger scale so that it can be evaluated by U.S. regulators. If they succeed, this artificial kidney could transform kidney failure treatment.

What These Developments Could Mean

There is no denying that the current developments in the treatment of kidney failure could be transformative for patients. With portable devices, dialysis will be far less intrusive in patients’ daily lives. They will hopefully regain time, energy, and freedom. With an artificial kidney, patients will hopefully be able to completely cease undergoing dialysis and return to normal life.

Though these treatments aren’t yet available, when it comes to the treatment of kidney failure, the Southern Massachusetts Dialysis Group prides itself on always being on the cutting edge of new developments in healthcare. While the future of kidney care is thrilling, for the time being, patients can come to SMDG to receive great kidney care with the best technology available.