You might be surprised to learn that kidney dialysis could be replaced in the future with an artificial kidney. Dr. Ira Kurtz and others at UCLA Health are in the process of developing an amazing device that could save the lives of so many people waiting for a kidney transplant.
After a five-year collaboration between the US Kidney Research Corporation, the University of Arkansas, and UCLA Health, Dr. Kurtz and a team of researchers are on the verge of achieving their goal with the introduction of an artificial kidney that can be worn inside a backpack. If things proceed as hoped, within a few years a similar device could be implanted in the body as an artificial organ.
37 million Americans suffer from kidney disease, which kills more people annually than most cancers. The U.S. government spends an estimated $114 billion in Medicare payments each year to care for patients with kidney disease. “The total amount the federal government spends on kidney care is approximately 20% of Medicare’s trillion a year budget,” Dr. Kurtz says. “The lack of progress over the years in treating people with kidney failure can be attributed, in part, to the characteristics that Dr. Kurtz finds most interesting about the organ. The kidneys act as a complex chemistry and biology lab – recognizing numerous substances (water, ions, and organic molecules) that need to be excreted in the urine, thereby keeping the blood chemistry relatively constant.
Dr. Kurtz estimates that his team needs another 18 months to refine the technology on the wearable artificial kidney and then will focus on the implantable artificial kidney.
“We’ve been able to get the funding every year for five years, but we need about another $8 million to take us to the finish line,” Dr.Kurtz says. “You know, it sounds like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to the $114 billion the U.S. government is spending on managing these patients. That’s the kind of funding we’re trying to somehow get. We’ve been talking to a number of different companies and entities. So far, not yet, but hopefully.”