Medical Minute 2-16: Curing Chronic Kidney Failure

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

It's a routine that's getting old for David Anderson. Sitting in a chair for hours on end is not how he'd prefer to spend his days.

"It's about five hours a day of coming and going, really, three times a week," said David Anderson.

David suffers from kidney failure and needs dialysis to survive. It's a process that cleans out blood but takes its toll on patients.

"It's uncomfortable to sit here for such a long time," said (:08) David Anderson.

The therapy only replaces about 10 percent of kidney function. After five years, just 35 percent of patients are still alive.

"It's actually really sad. I have a lot of patients. I think all nephrologists have a lot of patients that die regularly," said Lynda Frassetto, M.D., Nephrologist Professor of Medicine UCSF San Francisco, CA .

A kidney transplant is a better option. The problem? Last year, only 17-thousand of the 85-thousand patients on the waiting list received an organ.

An artificial kidney could soon be a solution. Researchers at UC San Francisco hope to implant the device right in the body. Thousands of microscopic filters mimic the filtering role of a real kidney. One side filters out toxins while the other re-absorbs salt and water and emits waste. The body's own blood pressure performs the filtration without the need for a power supply.

"Because it's implanted and provides many of the same benefits of a transplant, the patient quality of life, the patient health, will be improved," said Shuvo Roy, Ph.D., Bioengineer Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences UCSF San Francisco, CA.

The surgery will cost the same as a kidney transplant, but this device is designed to completely eliminate the 75-thousand per year spent on dialysis for each patient. A room-sized model of the artificial kidney has been used for over a decade. Now, engineers are trying to fit that into a device the size of a coffee cup. '

"I'd sign up now if I could," said Anderson.

Until then, he'll wait, hoping medicine will soon get him out of his chair and onto more exciting adventures.

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