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Promising artificial lung development can mean long-term mobility for patients

A team of researchers has developed an artificial lung that uses regular air, not pure oxygen, and is portable, marking a huge step forward for people with acute and chronic lung disease. The research is a result of collaboration between Case Western Reserve University and the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center

"The most significant finding is that we have demonstrated a small scale, prototype artificial lung," says Joseph A. Potkay, research assistant professor in CWRU's department of electrical engineering and computer science. "It represents a major leap forward toward a self-contained, portable or implantable device that would use ambient air, rather than oxygen cylinders, and would thus give patients full mobility." 

Current artificial lung systems require heavy tanks of oxygen, limiting patients' portability -- and they can be used only on patients at rest. Also, the lifetime of the system is measured in days. This new prototype is much smaller in size -- equivalent to a natural lung. 

"These results prove that constructing a device with features similar in size to those found in the natural lung can result in large improvements in efficiency over current alternatives, thereby enabling portable devices," says Potkay. "This technology will be used in portable heart lung machines and portable systems for the treatment of acute and chronic lung disease or as a bridge to transplant." 

Potkay and his team began developing the lung in early 2008 and will begin animal testing in two years. Human trials should begin in 10 years. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Lung disease affects over 200 million people worldwide.

Source: Joseph A. Potkay
Writer: Karin Connelly

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