Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) therapy oxygenates the blood and removes carbon dioxide (CO2), bypassing the lungs and/or heart of premature infants, transplant patients and others suffering respiratory failure and related conditions. But ECMO technology can trigger the body’s clotting response, and anticoagulants administered to deal with that can cause bleeding.
To improve health outcomes for ECMO patients, Draper engineered a microfluidic oxygenator that mimics conditions in the human body.
A Better ECMO that Mimics Human Blood Pathways
Microfluidic platform technologies offer the opportunity to better mimic blood flow patterns in the human body, but many microfluidic oxygenator attempts have run into severe problems with scaling to high flow rates and have not exhibited stable performance with regard to blood health and thrombosis. Draper’s microfluidic device is the first to show long-term stable performance with low levels of thrombus formation in large animal studies.
Our technology features multiple layers of branched microfluidic microchannels designed to mimic properties of human vasculature. This creates uniform flow and pressure—features capable of lowering the risk of thrombosis and inflammation relative to standard hollow fiber ECMO and other attempts at designing microfluidic devices.
Additional clinical benefits of Draper’s microfluidic oxygenator design include
- Reduced shear stresses on the blood
- Highly efficient oxygen transfer rates
- Lower blood prime volume (volume of blood in the device)
Our most advanced prototype supports a flow rate of 1 L/minute, a scale compatible with pediatric use.
Bringing ECMO Out of the ICU
Beyond its potential to improve outcomes for ICU patients, Draper’s innovation represents an enabling technology for portable ECMO machines.
A smaller, safer and simpler-to-use device could bring the life-saving power of heart and lung bypass to civilian patients when ICU beds are limited—and to military casualties on the battlefield.
Seeking Partners to Further Scale and Test
Launched with internal funding, our biomimetic ECMO device advanced from lab to bench scale with funding from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense and commercial device manufacturers. In 2021, our advancements received recognition from the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs.
With funding from the U.S. Army, this prototype moved into preclinical trials in 2022. Early results are promising, and we are actively seeking partners to fully scale our design for use in adults and pursue clinical trials.
With funding and support, we aim to rapidly transition Draper’s biomimetic organ support technology into clinical use.