TV station reports on bionic kidney project

WSMV News 4, a Nashville (Tennessee) television station, this past week reported on the development and progress of a bionic kidney that is providing hope for the many thousands of dialysis patients across the country.

I came to know of this artificial kidney possibility while researching my book, Dialing in on DI-AL-Y-SIS, and included pertinent information of the progress being made by the two original research collaborators in one of my 16 chapters. The Nashville station’s update on the bionic kidney aired as follows:

There are two options for a person with kidney failure. A kidney transplant or dialysis, a machine that filters the blood of toxins, normally cleaned by healthy kidneys.

Thanks to research conducted at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (located in Nashville) and five other universities around the country, a third option may be available that can mean people on dialysis can lead a normal life as if they didn’t have kidney failure at all.

Right now without dialysis, a person with kidney disease can live for only a few weeks, perhaps months.

A tiny device that can fit in the palm of your hand may be a game changer. It’s called the bionic kidney.

Vanderbilt nephrologist Dr. William Fissell is part of a nationwide team of doctors and biologists who have been working on the device for 17 years. “It’s fair to call it a bionic kidney because it’s a hybrid of technology and living cells,” said Fissell.

It’s been a long journey for Fissell. He hopes to begin clinical trials on the bionic kidney later this year and to get the device to kidney patients as soon as safety permits. “Know that we are doing it as fast as we can, and know that the rest of the country has mobilized in a way you may not expect,” said Fissell.

If the bionic kidney makes that huge jump from clinical trials to where it becomes available to all kidney patients, the implications for someone in renal failure is huge.

“What I want to do is enough, so that sick people can become well, not burdened by the disease, so that patients aren’t stuck to a machine plugged into a wall 15 hours a week, so they don’t have to have a special diet, so that patients don’t have to starve themselves to avoid intoxication with waste products,” said Fissell.

Note: Joining Dr. Fissell as one of the two collaborators in initiating Kidney Project is Dr. Shuvo Roy, the effort’s technical director from his faculty status at University of California San Francisco. The two doctors initiated Kidney Project in collaboration at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio back in 1998.