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Breathing Easier

Researchers develop more portable artificial lung.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University and the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center have developed an artificial lung that works with air, more closely mimicking the real thing.


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 Joe Potkay, a research assistant professor in electrical engineering and computer science and an investigator for the Advanced Platform Technology Center at the VA, who led the research team.

Current systems need heavy tanks of pure oxygen, which limits their portability. Potkay's prototype is filled with breathable silicone rubber versions of tiny blood vessels-some thinner than a human hair. By mimicking the real organ's design and making the parts on the same scale as the 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 tap into the devices while allowing their own diseased lungs to heal, or maybe implant one as a bridge while awaiting a lung transplant.

The study describing the device and research appears in the journal Lab on a Chip. The research team includes Brian Cmolik, assistant clinical professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and researcher at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, and biomedical engineers and third-year medical students Michael Magnetta and Abigail Vinson.

The research was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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