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CMU Professor Awarded $2.4M Grant For Artificial Lung Research

Fewer than 2,000 people receive a lung transplant yearly, yet 200,000 people die every year from lung disease, and to lessen this number, a Carnegie Mellon University researcher has received a $2.4 million grant to research artificial lungs.

CMU associate professor Keith Cook received the grant after demonstrating the device lasted longer than two weeks, compared to most other artificial lungs that normally only last a few days, which will allow patients to use the device at home.

“This grant has a fairly narrow focus," Cook said. "It just deals with how do you keep the gas exchange surfaces from generating clots, and that’s really the hardest aspect of the work. The issue of clotting is something that plagues all artificial organs, and is not something that we have found an acceptable solution for."

The device is designed to avoid stagnation and re-circulation of blood which cause clots inside the device, and the material that makes up the device was made denser, which also decreased the amount of clots on the surface of the device.

Artificial lungs do not often lead to clots that dislodge and block the brain; instead they are designed so the clot stays on the device and instead slowly stops the lung from circulating blood through it, which ultimately breaks the device.

Cook predicts that his device will last up to three months and will be available in the next five to 10 years.

“So if we had a device that could last for three months and could be replaced regularly, then you would see the number of patients who could be helped going from at most a couple thousand to several tens of thousands of patients,” said Cook.

Patient’s quality of life would also increase, because now patients who use the artificial lung must stay in the hospital because of their high failure rate. Cook's device will have a monitor to track the activity of the lung so that patients only have to see a doctor when the device needs replaced.

Cook plans to eventually start a business to research and produce the device.

Jess was accepted as a WESA fellow in the news department in January 2014. The Erie, PA native attends Duquesne University where she has a double major--broadcast journalism and political science. Following her anticipated graduation in May 2015, she plans to enter law school or begin a career in broadcast journalism.