Using the bioartificial kidney to free patients from dialysis

Dialysis, a 60-year-old technology that partially replicates the function of the kidneys, remains the frontline treatment for kidney failure. Yet it can only offer a five-year survival rate of 50%—worse than many cancers.

“Our kidneys do seven or eight different functions,” UCSF’s Shuvo Roy, PhD, co-director of the The Kidney Project, told Nature. A dialysis machine provides just one of those functions, he explained — “but even then, [it] doesn’t do it very well.”

The Kidney Project intends to replace dialysis with an implantable bioartificial kidney, one that not only provides better long-term health outcomes but also frees patients from a lifetime of three 4-hour dialysis sessions per week.

Roy is a faculty member in the UCSF Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, a joint department of the Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine. Roy and fellow Kidney Project co-director William Fissell, MD, from Vanderbilt University, have guided the bioartificial kidney from mere idea to functional prototype, which they hope will soon make a difference in patients’ lives.

Learn more in “Could implantable artificial kidneys end the need for dialysis?” in Nature.


School of Pharmacy, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.