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Kolff artificial kidney, Netherlands, 1955-1956

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Willelm J Kolff (b. 1911) developed the first artificial kidney, a forerunner of the kidney dialysis machine, during the Second World War in German-occupied Holland. Kolff used such easily available resources as cellophane sausage casing and empty food tins to build his ‘kidney’, which served to filter the blood. This example is made from an apricot tin. When a person’s kidneys fail, waste products cannot be removed from the blood and this causes illness.

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