John Oliver dedicated the bulk of this week’s Last Week Tonight to the decidedly un-sexy topic of dialysis. While he joked that the subject could make people lunge to “push the button on your TV remote marked ‘Dear God Literally Anything Else,'” it’s an important topic. Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC, and the United States has “one of the highest mortality rates for dialysis care” in the industrial world, despite spending more on it than other nations, by some accounts.
While Oliver called for better oversight of the for-profit dialysis business, as well as improved incentives for kidney transplants, and health care “to keep out of dialysis in the first place,” there’s one more option that he didn’t mention. And in the next few years, it could do away with dialysis entirely. Two words: bionic kidneys. The University of California San Francisco has been working on an artificial kidney for several years, and they are hoping to start human trials this year. If successful, the replacement kidney could do away with both the need for dialysis and transplants. Read more about the Kidney Project here.