A More Portable Artificail Lung
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University and the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center have developed an artificial lung that more closely mimics the real thing by working with air rather than pure oxygen.
For the 200 million people with lung disease, the device is a major step toward creating an easily portable and implantable artificial lung, according to Joseph Potkay, PhD, a research assistant professor in electrical engineering and computer science at the Case School of Engineering and an investigator for the Advanced Platform Technology Center at the VA, who led the research team.
Current systems rely on heavy tanks of pure oxygen, which limits their portability. Potkay collaborated with School of Medicine assistant clinical professor Brian Cmolik, MD, and two biomedical engineering students to develop a prototype that is filled with breathable silicone rubber versions of tiny blood vessels—some far thinner than a human hair. By modeling the device on the real organ’s design and making the parts to the scale of a natural lung, the team was able to shrink the distance for gas diffusion and increase the oxygen exchange efficiency, allowing for the use of plain air instead of pure oxygen.
Researchers envision patients would use the device while allowing their own diseased lungs to heal or have one implanted while awaiting a lung transplant.