A washing machine, wooden boards and the skin of some sausages to save millions of lives

Have you ever stopped to think What would your life be "tied" to a machine? Do you know what your day to day would be like if you depended on a machine that filtered your blood to survive? Are you really sure that those of us who are lucky enough not to have lived it can imagine it?

The dialysis machine is an invention of the Dutch Willem Johan Kolff, a doctor who did not give up in the face of the hardship of World War II, and who in 1943 he created his first "rotating drum kidney" with the things he found around him: a washing machine, wooden boards, cans of orange juice and the skin of some sausages. And, although the first two years his invention did not work as expected, on September 11, 1945 he finally saved a life. The lucky one was Maria Sofía Schafstadt, a 67-year-old woman with severe acute kidney failure. And, since then, dialysis has kept many other people alive, but it's not hard to imagine how difficult it must be to live depending on such medical treatment.

The evolution of the kidney transplant does not always end well, after a period of time one in four cases ends in rejection by antibodies

The numbers speak for themselves. More than two million people live on dialysis for chronic kidney failure. His two kidneys have stopped working normally, losing the ability to remove toxins from the blood and to control the volume of water in the body. They survive thanks to this medical procedure that filters their blood and removes both waste products and excess fluid.

Luckily, this situation can be ended with a kidney transplant. However, despite the widespread increase in donation figures, organs do not always arrive. For this reason, ten patients enrolled on waiting lists die every day in the European Union alone. On the other hand, the evolution of a kidney transplant does not always end well, because after a period of between five and ten years, one in four cases ends up in antibody rejection. The patient's immune system does not recognize the organ as its own, which ends his loss.

Everything seems to indicate that this type of research, which aspires to create complex "replacement" organs to prolong our lives, is on the right track.

To avoid this, immunosuppressive drugs are used that reduce the activity of the immune system, an essential system for our body, responsible for fighting bacteria and viruses, making this treatment puts the patient at greater risk of certain types of infection. That is why the patient is also provided with medicines to fight these possible infections, a treatment that allows them to extend their life expectancy. However, it is evident that, despite the advances, nothing better than the own organ or one exactly the same. Is not true?

In 2011 the Peruvian surgeon Anthony Atala He wanted to make it clear at a TED event that we would soon be able to fulfill this dream thanks to the manufacture of complex transplantable organs. To do this, he manufactured a human kidney with a bioprinter during a conference, an organ of a smaller size than the original that, although it was not transplantable, worked exactly the same.

This was how he made it clear to the scientific community and the international media that, despite the difficulties, nothing is impossible and, of course, with such a demonstration, Who could dare to think otherwise? Today we cannot know how long it will take to achieve it, but the important thing, at present, is that everything seems to indicate that this type of research, which aspires to create complex "replacement" organs to prolong our lives, is on the right track.