Researchers from Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio made a prototype of an artificial lung which reaches gas exchange efficiencies almost equal to the genuine organ. The small device does not need extra oxygen, it works with normal air. Joe Potkay, a research assistant professor in electrical engineering and computer science published the technique this week in the journal Lab on a Chip.
The scientists developed this prototype while keeping track of the natural design of our lungs. It is made of breathable silicone rubber acting as blood vessels that get as small as one-fourth of the width of a human hair. Because it works on the same scale as normal lung tissue, the team was able to shrink the distances for gas diffusion compared to current techniques. Tests using pig blood show oxygen exchange efficiency is three to five times better.
One of the big advantages of this system is that there is no need for extra oxygen. Current devices require external oxygen tanks. They need to be refilled while this new technique simply uses ambient air.
On the website of Case Universityb Joe Potkay is cited: “Based on current device performance, we estimate that a unit that could be used in humans would be about 6 inches by 6 inches by 4 inches tall, or about the volume of the human lung. In addition, the device could be driven by the heart and would not require a mechanical pump”.
The team predicts the human artificial lungs can be tested in clinical trials within a decade. Until that time they’ll work on a durable unit large enough to test in rodent models of lung disease. But first they need to develop a coating that will prevent clogging in the narrow capillaries. Therefore, they started a collaboration with researchers from Case Western Reserve’s departments of Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering.
Press release: Artificial lung mimics real organ’s design and efficiency
Abstract in Lab on a Chip: Bio-inspired, efficient, artificial lung employing air as the ventilating gas