Wearables get serious with artificial lung in the works


  • TECH
  • Wednesday, 22 Apr 2015

HUFFING AND PUFFING: The race is on to improve the quality of life for those who suffer from lung disease.

In the future, even respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary collapse might not necessarily keep sufferers hospitalised in the long term as the University of Maryland (UM) Ventures joins forces with Breethe, Inc to create the first portable artificial lung that users can don at home. 

The wearable artificial lung would enable patients to leave the hospital and participate in at least some of their favourite activities, says Dr Bartley Griffith, executive director of the University of Maryland Medical Center/School of Medicine Programme in Lung Healing and the Thomas E. and Alice Marie Hales Distinguished Professor in Transplant Surgery at the School of Medicine. 

Dr Griffith developed the technology that's being used in the wearable and is also the founder of Breethe, Inc. 

UM and the early-stage Baltimore-based medical device company announced that they have obtained exclusive rights to develop the device using technology created by faculty at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. 

"The portable artificial lung system developed at UMSOM has the potential to revolutionise treatment for patients with severe pulmonary disease," says Phil Robilotto, DO, MBA, chief commercialisation officer at UM Ventures. 

It's not the first attempt to create a wearable artificial lung, although if the team succeeds, it could be the first outpatient device. 

In 2013, a research team at the University of Pittsburgh in the US was bequeathed a US$3.4mil (RM12.38mil) grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a wearable artificial lung. 

"Our wearable lung will be designed to get patients up and moving within the hospital setting, which is important for both patient recovery and improving a patient's status prior to a lung transplant," said principal investigator William J. Federspiel, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering in Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering and director of the Medical Devices Laboratory at the Pitt-UPMC McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. 

The need for such an apparatus to improve quality of life is urgent, for lung disease is the third deadliest in the US behind heart disease and cancer, according to the American Lung Association. 

Around the world, 64 million people have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), yet chronic respiratory disease is often under-diagnosed, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). – AFP Relaxnews

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