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Patent Awarded for Non-Medicinal Emphysema Treatment

Illustration of lungs (Mikael Häggström/Wikimedia Commons)

(Mikael Häggström/Wikimedia Commons)

Aeris Therapeutics in Woburn, Massachusetts has received a patent for its  lung volume reduction technology to treat emphysema with a polymer-based hydrogel. Patent number 8,198,365 was awarded earlier this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to four inventors and assigned to Aeris Therapeutics.

Emphysema is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, often triggered by cigarette smoking — and some cases, second-hand smoke or heavy pollution — but eventually results in destruction of lung tissue. The tissue damage is caused by enzymes that degrade the collagen and elastin fibers, which provide mechanical integrity and elasticity to the lung, and make it difficult to breathe.

The patent notes that few effective medicinal treatments exist for emphysema, but an invasive and risky surgical technique developed recently, called lung volume reduction surgery, can remove the damaged tissue and reduce the lung size to non-damaged areas. Another method of lung-reduction therapy involves inserting a hydrogel made of fibrin, a natural protein derived from blood cells into the lungs. The fibrin hydrogel, says Aeris Therapeutics, has shown benefits in animal tests, but the procedure is complex, expensive, and can be contaminated with blood-based pathogens.

The Aeris Therapeutics patent covers a hydrogel therapy for lung volume reduction that uses a synthetic hydrogel made from polymers. The use of non-natural polymers, says the company, produces a collapse of the diseased area of the lung, providing more space in the chest cavity to enable the remaining healthier lung tissue to better function.

This technology is the basis of the company’s AeriSeal System for lung volume reduction. The system uses the polymer-based hydrogel as a foam sealant, injected into the lung with minimally-invasive procedure through a catheter, and directed by a bronchoscope. The hydrogel is designed to seal and collapse the damaged lung tissue, allowing the remaining lung to function more effectively.

The AeriSeal System is undergoing a clinical trial in 10 countries overseas. The therapy is approved for use in Europe (CE mark), but is still considered an investigational device in the U.S.

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