McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member William Federspiel, PhD, William Kepler Whiteford Professor in the Department of Bioengineering, Chemical Engineering, and Critical Care Medicine and the Director of the Medical Devices Laboratory at the McGowan Institute, recently spoke to Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station WESA about current research and pre-clinical trial efforts towards the development of a wearable artificial lung for patients suffering from lung failure. The new device promises to deliver greater mobility and increased odds for survival following severe lung damage.
“What distinguishes this technology is that we’ve combined the blood pump and the lung unit into one compact unit so that patients would be able to ambulate around in the clinical setting,” Dr. Federspiel said. “It’s pretty well established in the literature that if you can get these patients up and moving around, they do better. Whether it’s recovering from their illness or doing better with their post-transplant outcomes.”
Those suffering from lung failure have limited options. After being placed on the organ transplant list, it normally takes several months for a patient to receive a lung transplant. During this time, patients are usually confined to the hospital bed, sedated, and hooked up to costly and cumbersome heart-lung machines that function to replace their damaged lungs.
The new unit takes less blood out of the patient to fill the tubing and the device. Dr. Federspiel said by doing that, one device could be used in three types of patients: adults who need a low-flow CO2 removal device, adults who need a higher-flow oxygenation device, and pediatric patients who need a high-flow device.
While there are only about 200 pediatric patients in the U.S. each year who need such devices, there are between 10,000 and 50,000 adult patients who need the higher-flow assistance, according to Dr. Federspiel. He said there are an additional 100,000 to 300,000 patients in the U.S. who need the CO2 removal devices.
Dr. Federspiel said making a device only for pediatric needs might not be commercially viable, but building a multi-use device that can be used by children could open the door to saving young lives.
Illustration: Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA.