Newsletter: Winter 2023
Welcome to the first edition of The Kidney Project newsletter! This quarterly update is an initiative of our Patient Advisory Council to keep our community informed on The Kidney Project's progress and ways to get involved.
Research & Development Update
Thanks to the support of our funders and patient community, The Kidney Project has continued to make real progress towards our goal of creating an implantable bioartificial kidney (iBAK) that will free patients from dialysis.
Despite the delays and supply chain crises of the pandemic, 2022 saw us successfully implant a small-scale bioartificial kidney prototype into a pig. In this 3-day proof-of-concept experiment, the silicon membrane filter did not clot or clog, and produced a GFR equivalent to about 4 microliters per minute. The bioreactor of living kidney cells functioned exactly as needed and produced urine. The cells stayed alive and healthy in the bioreactor for the duration of the experiment. Of course, filtration capacity will need to be scaled up to treat human patients, but this demonstration proved that the key components of our device work as intended.
Our team also overcame an important cell culture challenge in 2022. Often when researchers grow cells in a lab dish, the cells lose the critical functions that they provide in a healthy body. We had previously shown that cell signaling pathways are affected by the stiffness of the materials on which the cells are grown. We recently showed that we are able to "unlock" a wide range of kidney cell behavior and were able to keep kidney cells alive and functional for 11 months -- which bodes well for having a permanent implant that provides kidney function for years. This work has been accepted into the journal Tissue Engineering Part A and was presented at the American Society of Nephrology Meeting in November, 2022.
The Kidney Project needs approximately USD 10 Million to reach the first human clinical trials in the next 3 to 4 years. Since announcing this goal in July of 2022, we have raised nearly $780,000 in gifts from our foundation partners (the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, the Wildwood Foundation); grassroots efforts like The Kidney Project Store, Mantis BBQ’s BBQ Sauce to Save Lives, and crowdfunding campaigns; and donations from individual supporters.
We are extremely grateful for and encouraged by the generosity of our community. But to begin trials within 3 to 4 years, we must secure larger funding commitments that will allow us to take the expensive steps necessary to scale up our device for human use. We urge you to spread the word about our project to anyone who may be able to help. If you can, donate today at bit.ly/Givetokidney.
Meet MarshaMarsha is a 46-year-old mom of 4 and grandmother of 3 from Lima, Ohio. She is also a dialysis patient in need of a kidney transplant, but because of her high antibody levels, Marsha faces a long wait for a donor. Marsha is a perfect example of why an implantable artificial kidney is so urgently needed.
Marsha worked for many years as a registered nurse – a job she enjoyed and was good at. But the AV fistula created in her arm for dialysis access prevented her from being able to lift and move patients, and she had to give up her career as a nurse.
Marsha found out there was an issue with her kidney while trying to enter the military after high school. Her disease, called Alport Syndrome, is genetic and several members of her family have gone into kidney failure because of it. Five years ago after the birth of her youngest child, Marsha started dialysis, choosing to do peritoneal dialysis at home. There were many problems with her dialysis access, and she suffered through 4 umbilical hernias in 2 years. Then she switched to in-center hemodialysis where she dialyzed for 3 hours every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Recently, Marsha started training to perform hemodialysis at home, but has encountered numerous issues with her home water supply and has made the difficult decision to return to dialyzing in-center.
In addition to Alport Syndrome and end stage renal disease, Marsha was diagnosed with breast cancer near the end of 2021. She had surgery and radiation and is currently cancer free, but this development temporarily inactivated her on the transplant list.
Somehow, through everything, she manages to stay very active. Her children range in age from 5 to 25 years old. Her grandchildren live nearby, and she helps with their care. She also takes care of bookkeeping for her boyfriend’s small business. She likes to stay busy and is thinking about going back to school for her master’s degree and possibly teaching.
Marsha found out about The Kidney Project while researching online before starting dialysis. The thing that most excites Marsha about the artificial kidney is that it won’t require people to take immunosuppression.
The Kidney Project started a YouTube Live Q&A series in 2022. These monthly events cover a variety of topics, from the iBAK development timeline to how patients and families can get involved. Attendees can send in questions prior to the event. To be notified about future Q&As, follow us on Eventbrite and YouTube.
January 2023: BBQ Sauce to Save Lives. Our latest YouTube Live recording is available! Dr. Shuvo Roy spoke with Andy, Linda, and Spencer Mantis of Mantis BBQ about their family's unexpected journey with kidney failure and their mission to support artificial kidney development.
ICYMI: September 2022: Breaking Down the iBAK Development Timeline. Dr. Roy steps through the implantable bioartificial kidney’s development timeline, describing the milestones the iBAK has met to date and what lies ahead.
All of our live events can be found under the "Live" tab on our YouTube channel.
The Kidney Project Store
The Kidney Project Store is online and ready for business! Proceeds from the sales go directly to The Kidney Project. We are having a sale during the month of February...$10 off when you purchase 2 of our Super Soft Classic T-shirts. They come in a variety of colors (no code needed...discount automatically applied at checkout).
Frequently Asked Questions
Have a question about The Kidney Project? Check out our newly updated FAQ section.