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Project aims to create at-home artificial lung system

Posted by on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Around the Medical Center, Spring 2022 .

Vanderbilt University Medical Center will share in an $8.7 million federal grant to create an artificial lung system that patients with incurable lung disease can use at home.

The Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program grant will fund research to create and test the device, which is intended for patients who may not be able to wait long enough for a lung transplant or are not candidates for one.

The goal for the device is to care for such patients indefinitely, said Matthew Bacchetta, MD, MBA, MA, H. William Scott, Jr. Chair in Surgery, who leads Vanderbilt’s research team working on the device. The device could also help patients rehabilitate from temporary life-threatening lung issues and serve as a bridge to transplant.

More than 12 million people suffer from chronic lung disease, and, for the majority of them, it is related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Veterans are about three times more likely than the general population to develop COPD, which is why the military is funding the research, Bacchetta said.

Meanwhile, no truly ambulatory artificial lung exists. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation is a life-sustaining mechanical system that temporarily takes over for the heart and lungs of critically ill patients, but it is administered in the hospital and cannot be used in the home. And transplants are difficult for patients to obtain due to restrictive criteria because of the lack of organs.

“The need for helping people with chronic lung disease is just so apparent, because it’s literally millions,” Bacchetta said.