New Technology May Reduce Kidney Injuries

A research team at the University of Michigan (U-M), Ann Arbor, has devised a technique to use cultured kidney cells to simulate the way kidneys clear drug compounds.

The innovation could someday bring precise dosing, for example, to intensive care units where drug delivery is critical, researchers said. The invention uses a microfluidic chip device to deliver a precise flow of medication across cultured kidney cells. The research team tested their approach by comparing two different dosing regimens: a high concentration that quickly tapered, like an injection, versus a lower concentration infused at a constant rate, like an IV drip. Both approaches used the same amount of drug. The device sandwiched a thin, permeable polyester membrane and a layer of cultured kidney cells between the top and bottom compartments. Researchers pumped a gentamicin solution into the top, and the drug gradually filtered through the cells and the membrane, and simulated the flow of medication through a human kidney.

In the journal Biofabrication, the team reported that a once-daily dose of gentamicin is significantly less harmful to kidney cells than a continuous infusion—even though both ultimately delivered the same dose of medication. To commercialize the biomarker readout aspect of the technology, Shuichi Takayama, a U-M professor of biomedical engineering, has founded PHASIQ, an Ann Arbor-based spinoff company, in conjunction with the U-M Office of Technology Transfer.

Today’s method of relying on lab animals to measure drug toxicity may not be precise enough to determine safe dosages, but “the goal for the future is to improve these devices to the point where we’re able to see exactly how a medication affects the body from moment to moment, in real time,” Takayama said.