Artificial kidneys nearly set to end transplantation crisis: expert

By Anup Khastagir

DHAKA, Jan 30, 2017 (BSS) - As renal ailments appear as one of the world's worst health issue, an intensive research project led by a Bangladeshi born US bioengineer suggests, artificial kidney at an affordable cost is expected to put an end to worries of millions by 2020.

Talking to BSS on the sidelines of an international renal conference in India's Chennai, 48-year-old Dr Shuvo Roy today said the artificial kidneys were expected to complete a three-year clinical trial on human in 2020 after experiments on large animals yielded "very positive results".

Roy said for the past 15 years his team comprising doctors spearheaded a rigorous research which now reached its "final stage" to bring a permanent solution to acute kidney failures or End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).

"The surgically implantable artificial kidney is a promising alternative to kidney transplantation or dialysis for people with ESRD," said Roy, who is now on a visit to South Asia.

The coffee-cup-sized device, he said, would be embedded inside human body while it was designed to be connected internally to the patients' blood supply and bladder and implanted near their damaged kidneys, which would be kept in place.

Asked about the affordability of artificial kidneys Roy said, the price of the biomechanical device was expected to be much lower than the cost of kidney transplantation or dialysis.

"The device will perform most of the biological functions of the human kidney in producing hormone, controlling blood pressure and blood purification," he said.

Roy said the artificial kidneys were expected to permanently heal ESRD patients making redundant the dialysis system for a temporary relief from renal ailments as they eventually require kidney transplantations.

"The reality is that the number of kidney donors are very limited compared to the number of patients requiring the implantation while such process is legally and medically complicated and costs high," he said.

Roy added: "The artificial kidney is meant to be permanent and that is what our efforts are pushing towards . . . Our experiments suggest the device will functionally operate for many years, without failure."

Even in case of any failure of the artificial device, he said, replacement of its filter and or cells would involve a "minimal invasive surgery".

A professor of Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences of University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Roy now leads the multi-institutional collaborative kidney project at UCSF as the technical director while Dr William Fissell, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt, works as its medical director.

Eldest among two sons and one daughter of physician Dr Ashoke Roy and Ranta Dutta of Chittagong, Roy was born 1969 in Dhaka and had his elementary schooling in Siddeswari of the capital.

Roy had his secondary school education in Uganda as after the independence, as his father went there as a member of a Bangladeshi medical team sent by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the request of the than Ugandan president Idi Amin.

On completion of school studies Roy shifted to northern Ohio State of the United States and completed his post graduation in applied physics.

"If we do not encounter any unanticipated development challenges, we expect to have a device ready for Clinical Trials by the end of 2017 and it will be completed by 2020 (and) unlike human kidney transplant recipients, patients with the implantable artificial kidney will not require immunosuppressive therapy," Roy said.

He said during the clinical trials his team would simultaneously work with potential manufacturers of the device to discuss about its production and management and "once the clinical trials are complete, the device will be immediately available for patients".

According to health experts and statistics the number of individuals diagnosed with kidney failure is growing year-over-year across the world while high blood pressure and diabetes were frequently found to be associated with kidney failures.

More than 615,000 people now are being treated for kidney failure in the United States alone costing the country's healthcare system $40 billion annually and accounts for more than seven percent of Medicare spending.

According to the Bangladesh Kidney Foundation, Bangladesh is one the countries with high prevalence of "chronic kidney disease" where about two crore people are now somehow suffering from kidney ailments while the figure was about one crore 10 years ago.

It says one in every seven people in the country suffers from kidney diseases and 40,000 die of longtime kidney failures annually and most of the patients die as they visibly cannot afford the treatment cost.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)