Unlike Earth with its vast population of kidney donors (that is if one is lucky), future space settlers will likely be on their own if any of them experience kidney failure.

While future scientists on Mars, Callisto, Ganymede, etc. could always grow organs from pigs, off world inhabitants may prefer an artificial solution instead.

The device, which would include thousands of microscopic filters as well as a bioreactor to mimic the metabolic and water-balancing roles of a real kidney, is being developed in a collaborative effort by engineers, biologists and physicians nationwide, led by Shuvo Roy, PhD, in the UCSF Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences.

The treatment has been proven to work for the sickest patients using a room-sized external model developed by a team member in Michigan. Roy’s goal is to apply silicon fabrication technology, along with specially engineered compartments for live kidney cells, to shrink that large-scale technology into a device the size of a coffee cup. The device would then be implanted in the body without the need for immune suppressant medications, allowing the patient to live a more normal life. (Science Daily)

While one would hope in the future that kidney failure would become an issue of the past, having one’s kidney’s fail hundreds a millions of kilometers from the nearest donor does not bring too many pleasant thoughts to mind.

By using artificial kidney’s, doctors can focus more on the replacing the dead kidney rather than on finding a suitable donor (not to mention the dialysis which would take an astronaut out of commission).

Although this technology was developed for the intention of serving residents upon the home world, it can potentially benefit hundreds (if not millions) of off world settlers in the future by giving them one less problem to worry about just in case something goes wrong.

(via Gizmodo)

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