According to a recent Medgadget article, researchers at the UCSF developed an implantable bioreactor to advance the development of artificial kidneys. The project is in response to the limitations of dialysis and kidney transplants for patients with kidney failure. Dialysis requires frequent clinic visits and is not as effective as a functioning kidney, while kidney transplants are hindered by donor shortages and the need for lifelong immunosuppressant drugs.
The implantable bioreactor contains kidney cells, specifically proximal tubule cells, that regulate water levels in the body. These cells are protected from the immune system by silicon membranes. The device can be connected to nearby blood vessels, allowing blood to flow through it. In experiments on pigs, the implanted bioreactors sustained cell survival for at least seven days, showing potential for further development.