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Researchers Take First Step in Engineering Artificial Kidney

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have engineered an artificial kidney that they believe holds promise for shortening organ transplant waiting lists.

According to BBC News, similar studies have created simpler body parts that have already been used in patients. However, the kidney is one of the most complex organs yet engineered.

Researchers hope to reach a point where they can take an old kidney, remove the existing cells, and then rebuild the structure of the kidney with cells from a transplant patient. The belief is that this process would avoid organ rejection and increase the number of organs available for transplant.

While the potential is huge, BBC News reports that engineered kidneys have a long way to go before they become a reality. In the research at Massachusetts General Hospital, the kidney's effectiveness was measured just 5 percent of a natural kidney when it was transplanted into a laboratory rat.

According to BBC News, researchers must still prove that the engineered organs can function over extended periods of time. However, engineered windpipes and bladders have already been successfully implanted.

Over 100,000 people in the United States alone are awaiting kidney transplants, while just 18,000 receive a new organ each year.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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