Development of artificial kidney aims to improve patients’ lives
Kidney dialysis saves lives, but it is very hard on the lives it saves, says William Fissell, MD, physician and researcher in the Nephrology Department of the Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute and the Biomedical Engineering Department of the Lerner Research Institute. This fact is what drives his efforts to develop an artificial kidney that could replace a human one.
The mortality rate for dialysis patients is high – 25 percent per year. “People on dialysis have accelerated heart disease compared to the rest of the population,” he says. “Even young children on dialysis get coronary vascular disease, and the death rate from infection from pneumonia is 20 times worse in the dialysis population than in the general population.”
And because there are so few available donor organs, “a patient is more likely to die waiting than get a kidney.”
Recent gifts from the Wildwood Foundation, which is based in Summit, N.J., have allowed Dr. Fissell to hire a full-time, post-doctoral fellow to help develop an artificial kidney the size of a soda can that fits easily inside a human body as an alternative to transplant. The research is a collaborative effort among 11 institutions, led by Cleveland Clinic and the University of California, San Francisco.
With current and future philanthropic support plus NIH grants, Dr. Fissell says, the first device could be implanted in humans by 2015.
A version of this story appeared in the spring 2010 issue of online giving site, or call Institutional Relations and Development at 216.444.1245 or toll-free at 800.223.2273, ext. 41245.