Yet transplants are difficult to obtain: a mere 17,000 donated kidneys were available for transplant last year, while the number of patients on the transplant waiting list currently exceeds 85,000, according to the Organ Procurement ant Transplant Network.
Roughly 350,000 patients are reliant on kidney dialysis, Roy explained, which comes at a tremendous cost. The Medicare system alone spends $25 billion on treatments for kidney failure more than 6 percent of the total budget while the disease affects only 1 percent of Medicare recipients, he said. That cost includes almost $75,000 per patient each year for dialysis, according to the U.S. Renal Data System.
Dialysis also takes a human toll. A typical dialysis schedule is three sessions per week, for 3 to 5 hours per session, in which blood is pumped through an external circuit for filtration. This is exhausting for patients and only replaces 13 percent of kidney function, Roy said. As a result, only 35 percent of patients survive for more than 5 years.
With the limited supply of donors, that means thousands of patients die each year waiting for a kidney.
The implantable device aims to eradicate that problem. The two-stage system uses a hemofilter to remove toxins from the blood, while applying recent advances in tissue engineering to grow renal tubule cells to provide other biological functions of a healthy kidney. The process relies on the body's blood pressure to perform filtration without needing pumps or an electrical power supply.
The project exemplifies the many efforts under way at UCSF to build collaborations across scientific disciplines that accelerate the translation of academic research into real solutions for patients, according to Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD, dean of the UCSF School of Pharmacy.
"This is a perfect example of the work we are doing at UCSF to address some of the most critical medical issues of our time, both
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University of California - San Francisco