A promising new therapy incorporates living cells to help patients recover from acute renal failure (ARF). Normally, patients who suffer an abrupt loss of kidney function from an acute event or injury (for example, severe blood loss or toxic insult) are treated with continuous renal replacement therapy or CRRT (hemodialysis and related treatments) until the kidneys recover. The experimental renal tubule assist device (RAD) may help buy the kidneys more recovery time.
The RAD is simply a blood filter lined with cells cultivated from donor kidneys. These cells help carry out various absorptive, immunologic, metabolic, and endocrine functions the damaged kidneys can't handle and CRRT can't perform.
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In a study of 58 patients with ARF, researchers found that mortality was about 50% lower in those treated with both RAD and CRRT compared with patients who received only CRRT.
Researchers, who are working to refine the RAD for wider use, say its success may foreshadow an entirely new class of cell-based and tissue-engineered therapies.
Tumlin J, et al., "Efficacy and safety of renal tubule cell therapy for acute renal failure, Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, published online ahead of print February 13, 2008.