Artificial Kidneys

I love bioengineering because not only do we get a chance to learn all about the biological processes going on inside our body but we also get to start exploring different  disease treatments and how bioengineers are working to improve them.

For example, the last couple of days in my bioE class we have been starting to talk about the renal system, specifically the liver and the kidneys, and how they can help break down unusable or toxic molecules into something that can be either reabsorbed or excreted from the body and how they can help maintain water and ion concentrations in our body. That is just the biology, and therefore just the beginning of our work.

In the last part of lecture, we began talking about dialysis, the process of externally filtering the blood of someone who is experiencing some kind of kidney disease. Going into the lecture I was somewhat familiar with the dialysis process (after watching every episode of House, Scrubs, and a lot of shows on Discovery Health a lot of medical procedures start to seem vaguely familiar) but had never really thought about the cost or medical waste factors of a dialysis machine.

Because of the rapid blood flow rate through the kidneys, artificial blood filters today are made out of polymers. They work, but only short-term (only 35% of dialysis patients remain alive after 5 years), and cannot be reused because they cannot be sterilized. This causes huge amounts of medical waste. Our professor told us that bioengineers are currently working on making compact dialysis machines and different forms of filters, advancements that would effect thousands of lives around the world. Hearing statements like that definitely reinforces the idea that my major is exactly where I want to be.


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