A study recently published in Artificial Organs demonstrates the capabilities of an artificial lung designed to facilitate gas exchange in the blood of newborns. This lung assist device (LAD) is scalable in size to accommodate different sized newborns, and it requires no external pump.

The design is based on stackable single oxygenator units (SOUs).

For each unit, blood flows through the inlet, over the gas permeable membranes, and then through the outlet. The overall device is simply an array of SOUs connected in parallel. This modular design makes the rate of blood oxygenation easily adjustable to body size.

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The device is meant to be connected to the umbilical artery and vein. The natural pressure difference between the blood in these vessels is enough to provide the flow necessary for adequate gas exchange.

The volume of blood required to fill the LAD is smaller than any other available oxygenator that can produce a similar gas exchange. When used within it’s operating range, the minimal flow rate through the device allows it to be used with negligible effects on blood pressure and heart rate.

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This study demonstrated gas exchange that could compensate for 9 to 15% of oxygen consumption by extremely low birth weight newborns. Calculations suggest that the device could be optimized to provide 40% of gas exchange requirements while maintaining hemodynamic stability. There is exciting potential in perinatal care for neonates using these LADs. Although there is still research that needs to be done regarding design optimization and hemocompatible surfaces, we seem to be palpably close to a major leap forward in life saving treatment for premature neonates.

Source: Artificial Organs