Scientists create device to emulate kidney function

Researchers have developed a model kidney to simulate kidney function without using human kidneys.
By Amy Wallace  |  Feb. 9, 2017 at 4:18 PM
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Feb. 9 (UPI) -- A team from Binghamton University has created a reusable, multilayered and microfluidic device that emulates human kidney function.

The device incorporates a porous growth substrate, with a physiological fluid flow, and the passive filtration of the capillaries around the end of the kidney known as the glomerulus, where waste is filtered from blood.

"This is a unique platform to study interactions between drugs and cells or tissues, specifically in the kidney, where current models were lacking," Courtney Sakolish, Ph.D. biomedical engineering alumna and study co-author, said in a press release. "These platforms will, hopefully, in the future, be used as an animal alternative during pre-clinical testing to more accurately direct these studies toward successful results in humans."

The research showed that cells grown in the device exhibit more natural behaviors than when grown in traditional culturing methods, and the filtration by the glomerulus is necessary for cells to function properly.

"This is tissue engineering, but not for the purpose of replacing an organ or tissue in a person," Gretchen Mahler, assistant professor in the biomedical engineering department and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "The idea is that we can recreate the major organ functions in a simplified way for use as a drug screening tool. Finding new drugs is very hard, expensive and inefficient. We hope that by using human cells in a physiological environment we can help to direct resources toward the most promising new drug candidates and determine that other new drug candidates will fail, faster."

According to researchers, this is the first model to use glomerular filtration.

"This type of device uses human cells in a dynamic, more physiologic environment, potentially making it better at predicting the body's response to drugs than animals [animal effectiveness studies often don't translate to humans] or static cell cultures, which are the most commonly used preclinical screening tools."

The study was published in RSC Advances.

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