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University Developing Wearable Artificial Lung Device

PAAL device prototype (University of Pittsburgh)

PAAL device prototype (University of Pittsburgh)

Biomedical engineers at University of Pittsburgh are developing a portable artificial lung for patients awaiting a transplant, yet still retain their mobility. The project headed by William Federspiel, director of the university’s medical device lab, is funded by a $3.4 million grant from National Institutes of Health.

The device will serve as a bridge for patients with acute or chronic lung failure awaiting a transplant lung or facing an extended recovery. Current artificial lung technologies, such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), drain blood from the body to restore adequate oxygen levels, and is then returned to the blood stream. The equipment used for ECMO, however, is heavy and unwieldy, even in ambulatory systems.

The Pittsburgh project called the Paracorporeal Ambulatory Assist Lung or PAAL, as described by Federspiel, “is a wearable, fully integrated blood pump and lung designed to provide longer-term respiratory support up to one to three months while maintaining excellent blood compatibility.” This device is expected to complement a wearable artificial pump-lung developed at University of Maryland, but aims to improve on the Maryland device’s transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide, as well as increase its biocompatibility.

A key objective of the Pittsburgh device is patient mobility. “Our wearable lung will be designed to get patients up and moving within the hospital setting,” says Federspiel, “which is important for both patient recovery and improving a patient’s status prior to a lung transplant.”

Federspiel is a co-founder of a Pittsburgh start-up company Alung Technologies that provides advanced respiratory support systems. Alung developed a respiratory assist device that the company says works like dialysis to remove carbon dioxide and deliver oxygen to the blood. In late February, Alung received CE Mark approval to market the device in Europe.

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