Engineers use supercomputer to design smaller artificial lung device

By Paul Basilio, MDLinx
Published May 5, 2017

Key Takeaways

Researchers from two universities are teaming up to design a smaller breathing device to help children with chronic lung disease move and breathe a little easier.

After receiving a grant from the National Institutes of Health, Greg Burgreen, PhD—part of a team at Mississippi State’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS)—began working with colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh to develop digital models of the Pediatric Paracorporeal Assist Lung (P-PAL).

CAVS is a member research center of the university’s High Performance Computing Collaboratory (HPC2), which has a global reputation for interdisciplinary education and research to expand and enhance the design, technology, production and infrastructure necessary for sustainable mobility. HPC2 is also home to one of the world’s most advanced supercomputers, which will provide the horsepower for the computational prototyping.

When it is finished, P-PAL is expected to be about the size an adult fist. It will involve tubes that will be connected to the body via the femoral artery or the jugular vein. The device is invasive, but it will allow patients enough mobility to enjoy a better quality of life while awaiting lung transplantation.

Prior to working on P-PAL, Dr. Burgreen was part of a national effort to develop an artificial heart small enough to use in infants and children.

In the past, the design and testing of biomedical devices has been an expensive, time-consuming process. Computer-based prototyping has allowed for a significantly faster and less expensive method to design and simulate operation.

“One of the hardest things in this type of research is trying to mimic the sophistication and efficiency of human physiology without causing mechanical damage to blood,” Burgreen said.

Clinical use is still years away, but Dr. Burgreen said that everyone involved in the P-PAL project believes it will stand as a major therapeutic improvement and a potential full treatment for children with lung diseases.

“Mississippi State University is helping to improve and prolong the lives of children suffering from lung diseases,” he said.

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