Hemodialytic treatment of patients with either acute or chronic renal failure has had a dramatic impact on the mortality rates of these patients. Unfortunately, this membrane-based therapy is still incomplete renal replacement, as the mortality and morbidity of these patients remain unacceptably high. Much progress must be made to improve the biocompatibility of hemodialysis membranes as well as their hydraulic and permselective properties to remove small solutes and 'middle molecules' in compact cartridges. The next directions of development will leverage materials and mechanical engineering technology, including microfluidics and nanofabrication, to further improve the clearance functions of the kidney to replicate glomerular permselectivity while retaining high rates of hydraulic permeability. The extension of membrane technology to biohybrid devices utilizing progenitor/stem cells will be another substantive advance for renal replacement therapy. The ability to not only replace solute and water clearance but also active reabsorptive transport and metabolic activity will add additional benefit to the therapy of patients suffering from renal failure. This area of translational research is rich in creative opportunities to improve the unmet medical needs of patients with either chronic or acute renal failure.