A startup in Kitchener, Ont. is currently testing mechanical and lab-grown kidney replacements for people who need transplants.

“This one replaces the blood purification,” Qidni Labs founder Morteza Ahmadi told CTV Kitchener while showing off a small metallic device.

Another is a lab-grown kidney “scaffold” that’s made from pig cells.

“The idea is to grow cells from patients on this scaffold and then implant them in the patient so that the body of the patient would not reject them,” Ahmadi explained while holding a jar containing an example.

Qidni Labs is also working on a portable dialysis machine so patients on transplant waiting lists can live normal day-to-day lives. Typically, Ahmadi says, dialysis patients have to visit clinics or hospitals three times a week for four hours at a time.

“It costs about $82,000 per patient per year,” Ahmadi said of traditional dialysis methods. “With this device, the patients don’t need to go a clinic anymore -- all they need to do is to carry this device with them for a few hours a day and it does the job of blood purification for them.”

Dr. Gerald Rosenstein is a nephrologist -- or kidney specialist -- at Kitchener’s Grand River Hospital.

“Life on dialysis is really hard for patients,” Rosenstein told CTV Kitchener.

Patients, he says, typically wait anywhere between three to five years for a kidney transplant. Dialysis, he adds, is little more than a Band-Aid treatment.

“Getting patients off of dialysis is key,” he said. “Keeping them from ever going on dialysis is even better.”

Qidni Labs is currently testing its devices. Funding, Ahmadi says, remains their biggest obstacle. But if all goes according to plan, Qidni Labs expects its devices to hit the market in four to five years.

“At the moment, we are at the pre-clinical stage,” Ahmadi said. “We plan to complete those tests in 18 months and start testing in patients in about 18 to 24 months.”