Kidney Week 2019: Artificial kidneys in the making, gut microbes determine kidney transplant success and other key takeaways
More than 12,000 scientists and health professionals from all over the world discussed the latest and emerging technologies in the field of nephrology.
Last week, the American Society of Nephrology organised its annual "Kidney week" - one of the biggest meetings in the world for kidney experts
Scientists have found a link between the chances of transplant rejection and the difference in the gut microbiota
After more than a decade of hard work scientists have finally implanted a prototype of an artificial kidney in an animal model
Last week, the American Society of Nephrology organised its annual "Kidney week" - one of the biggest meetings in the world for kidney experts. The six-day conference was held in Washington DC, US, from 5-10 November where more than 12,000 scientists and health professionals from all over the world discussed the latest and the emerging technologies in the field of nephrology.
The topics ranged from the effects of lifestyle on kidney health to innovations in dialysis and the latest clinical trials. Here are three interesting developments discussed at the conference:
Gut microbiota can determine the success of a kidney transplant
Kidney transplants are among the most common organ transplants in the world. For a transplant to be successful, the donor and recipient must have the same blood and tissue types. However, even after that match, the recipient has to be on lifelong immunosuppression because their body will treat the new kidney as "foreign" and likely make antibodies against it.
Now, Dr Ji Eu Kim and his team at the Seoul National University Hospital, Republic of Korea, have found a link between the chances of transplant rejection and the difference in the gut microbiota.
There are more than three million microbes in our gut that perform various functions. One of their functions is to determine innate (the one you are born with) and adaptive (the one you get after you get a disease) immunity. Studying the microbiome of 55 different donor-recipient pairs, the researchers found that the larger the difference between the gut microbes in two people, the higher are the chances of rejection within the next six months.
Conversely, when the gut microbiota in the recipient and the donor is similar, it improves the chances of a successful transplant. People who share meals - spouses and immediate family - have the most similar variety of microbes in their gut and would hence be considered the best donors.
An implantable artificial kidney that would eliminate the need for dialysis
In people with end-stage renal disease, dialysis becomes unavoidable to filter waste from the body. However, the procedure itself can be cumbersome - a lot of kidney patients have to undergo dialysis more than thrice a week. While dialysis removes the toxins from the body, it can’t substitute other functions of the kidneys like maintaining blood pressure and producing hormones.
On 7 November, Dr William H. Fissell, a nephrologist at the Roy and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, US, spoke about an important milestone at The Kidney Project. The Kidney Project is a US-based research initiative focussed on developing an artificial kidney to cope with the increasing need for donor kidneys and reduce the burden of dialysis.
The team announced that after more than a decade of hard work, they have finally implanted a prototype of an artificial kidney in an animal model. The device is small enough to fit in your palm and apart from filters, it has a small bioreactor with healthy kidney cells that can perform all the other functions of the kidney. Since it is not an external tissue there was no concern about rejection either. Fissell is currently waiting to get approval from the US Food & Drug Administration for a clinical trial of the prototype.
About two million people in the world need a kidney transplant right now. If this artificial kidney works, it would be a lifesaver for millions.
Hypertensive men are at a higher risk of chronic kidney disease than hypertensive women
High blood pressure can severely affect the blood vessels of the kidneys, leading to chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD is one of the major complications of hypertension. Now, researches at the University of Oxford say that if you are a man, you are more likely to get CKD than a woman. This is believed to be to due to the difference in risk factors. For example, men who smoke are at risk of kidney failure even after nine years of quitting smoking. There have been some studies that show that women are anyway at a lower risk of CKD progression than men. However, the less number of reported cases may also be because women are less likely to go for dialysis and would hence be more likely to die.
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