In the United States, approximately 26 million people are affected by kidney disease with an estimated 5 percent annual increase in end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or kidney failure. Patients with ESRD rely on routine dialysis treatment which can extend their lives but leaves patients with very poor quality of life.

The Kidney Project, a collaboration between the Vanderbilt University and the University of California aims to revolutionize ESRD treatment. Led by Dr. William H. Fissell and Dr. Shuvo Roy, a team of researchers developed a new implantable bioartificial kidney that improves the health and financial implications of ESRD, particularly among patients who rely on dialysis treatments that can accumulate an annual cost of up to $89,000.

The implantable artificial kidney, which is about the size of an average coffee cup, imitates the capabilities of a normal, healthy kidney. To address the increasing deaths among waitlisted transplant patients, The Kidney Project's bioartificial kidney offers patients with less expensive and non-invasive continuous ESRD treatments that enable them to be more mobile.

"We aim to conduct clinical trials on an implantable, engineered organ in this decade, and we are coordinating our efforts with both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration," said Roy.

The device will be implanted beside the patient's own kidneys, which will not be removed, and will be connected to the patient's bladder and blood supply. The team employed methods involved in the production of microelectromechanical systems and semiconductor electronics to create the bioartificial kidney, which works using blood pressure and without the aid of electronic power of pump. The bioartificial kidney has a silicon nanofilter that mimics a normal kidney by removing water, small molecules, toxins and salt from the blood.

The Kidney Project is currently in its second stage of development. Phase Two involves extensive refinement of the bioartificial kidney, device test, development of pre-clinical testing prototypes and human clinical tests which involves ESRD patients. Set to conclude in 2017, the project's timeline depends on funding. While the team works with funds from federal grants, The Kidney Project is still in need of $8 million to complete Phase Two.

The Kidney Project has already reached out to donors and investors. It has also created online crowdsourcing campaigns to help raise the needed budget, which has been supported by the ESRD patient groups.

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