Technology reduces complications by mimicking natural blood flow
CAMBRIDGE, MA – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and no cures have proven effective over the long-term. Other lung problems disproportionately affect babies, especially those born prematurely. Attempts to assist patients with mechanical ventilation devices frequently cause complications, including lung tissue toxicity, airway injury, and pneumonia. Alternatives such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machines can damage the blood, leading to clotting and bleeding, and require extensive use of anti-coagulation that may have side effects such as bleeding in the brain, stomach and intestines.
To avoid these issues, Draper Laboratory is developing a microfluidic oxygenator that mimics human circulatory networks, including their smooth, gradual changes in channel dimension and lack of sharp corners. Once successfully tested and approved for human use, clinicians could prescribe the system for patients in both in- and out-patient settings.
“Microfluidic technologies have shown promise for small-scale lab-on-a-chip applications, but the Draper project shows for the first time how microfluidic devices can be scaled for high blood flows required for acute interventions and chronic support,” said Jeff Borenstein, Draper Laboratory’s principal investigator for the project, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Borenstein and his team have demonstrated blood oxygen transfer rates in the laboratory using bovine blood that indicted that the device can be scaled for human clinical use.
Draper is also applying the microfluidic technology to perform the functions of other organs, including the kidney, as well multiple organs at a time for the treatment of sepsis.