The University of Michigan Medical School laboratory is engaged in research that could mean the difference between life and death for patients waiting for a lung transplant. They are developing an implantable artificial lung that can serve as a bridge, a temporary step for patients waiting for a lung transplant much like the artificial heart is used in patients waiting for a heart transplant.
It is entering the last phases of testing and they have just been awarded a $5 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to be used in the animal studies that will get the prototype ready for testing in humans, which could be as close as just three years away.
The artificial lung will not use a mechanical pump for power. It will use the patients own heart. The study is now ready to refine the lung into its final form.
The implantable artificial lung will extend the time needed to find a donor and will also permit the doctors to be able to get the patient into better physical condition so that he will be in better health when it is time for the transplant. The patient will be more mobile and also be able to live at home.
Also, it can be left in even after the transplant, to give the new lung a chance to become fully functioning.
An important focus of the study will be to make sure they have a device that will pass the FDA, and one that can be produced commercially. Right now they are working with one prototype, which is normal in trials. Once it is proven to work, then it is time to look into how to manufacture it so that each one is exactly the same.
The tests so far have been very promising. It has had a fairly constant flow of blood. When blood flow is low, clotting may occur, when it is high, the heart has to work harder to pump the blood through the lung. Exercise requires high blood flow and that will make more demands on the lung. The study is going to have to look into making small changes so that the device will function under varying conditions.
The potential for this device is endless. It will make a better quality of life for patients with serious lung disease. Patients will live long enough to receive a lung transplant and be in better condition so that they will be able to tolerate the surgery better. It will relieve the stress that family members feel when they see a loved one suffering so much. There is no way to know how long a patient will be able to survive with an artificial lung. That is up to the study to find out, but no matter what the time span turns out to be, it will make a big difference.
Source the University of Michigan Medical School http://www.med.umich.edu