Engineering Materials

Artificial Lung Is Microfluidics Marvel

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Alexander Wolfe
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Biotech frontier
Alexander Wolfe   8/4/2011 7:58:26 AM
The intersection of biology and mechanical, electrical, computer and manufacturing engineering is really where the action is going to be in the 21st century. This story is a great example. I wonder, in your experience, Doug, do the medical professionals who are part of these teams have enough understanding of the non-biology stuff to be able to make as big a contribution as possible. I.e., if there was more cross-training, would some of these things evolve in faster or different ways? I realize that, in this case and in many others, the materials, cost, and miniaturization are the gating challenges. I'm just speculating as to the energizing effect of more cross-pollination within the collaborative teams. Great story.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Biotech frontier
Beth Stackpole   8/4/2011 8:12:43 AM
I have to agree with Alex on the potential for this intersection of technologies and disciplines and the impact it is having on medical advancements. Obviously, biomedical engineering is an important field, but I wonder what other new cross-discipline domains and training programs are emerging to better blend "the biology stuff with the non-biology stuff."

As someone who recently lost a family member (post transplant) to advanced lung disease, this story is particularly relevant. It's heartening to see how much process they're making, and that added detail about the first prototype being developed with additive manufacturing technologies points up another emerging area that has huge potential for emerging medical applications. Great story, Doug.

Douglas Smock
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Re: Biotech frontier
Douglas Smock   8/4/2011 9:01:53 AM
There is usually great interdisciplinary involvement in these types of projects. Usually mechanical engineers are involved. And yes, these people really know their stuff. They are plumbing whole new depths of knowledge unknown in traditional corporate development projects. I have been really impressed with the level of understanding these groups have in areas of polymer science where corporations have largely given up --- polymers for implants. I touched on this recently in another post. Very specialized groups are operating under the radar to develop bioresorbable polymers for implants, for example. This project also shows the tremendous potential for additive manufacturing in microfluidics.

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Re: Biotech frontier
OhmsLaw   8/4/2011 10:14:19 AM
Any attempt to mimic human parts will be humbled by the truly amazing human ability for reliability, performance and size and certainly requires expertise in dozens of fields of science. 

Considering we can survive contstant attack of viruses and bacteria and other parasites. Also we don't often rust, or need a power flush, routine change of antifreeze or need CLR flush treatments and use nano-osmotic effects to exchange CO2 for O2 and aren't affected much by microwave and RF ringing thru our lungs and can cough sputum if needed.... and oh ya have an automatic or manual feature with a  lifetime warranty on the air pump in our bellies.

.... a man-made design has a tough job to mimic  a lung, in literaly hundreds of different chemical/physical properties.



Anthony   (aka Tony Stewart)

Douglas Smock
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Re: Biotech frontier
Douglas Smock   8/4/2011 10:40:10 AM
I absolutely agree Ohms. The human body is a wonder that no engineer or scientist could ever begin to replicate in a meaningful way. The great advance I described at CWRU only lasts a few hours in the lab.  We are taking steps tinier than the tiniest baby steps. And even those accomplishments are inspiring.

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Re: Biotech frontier
jpotkay   8/4/2011 12:15:02 PM
Hi Alex. I am the lead researcher on the work and Doug asked me to log in and comment about our research team. Our cross-disciplinary team involves the following:

* One specialist in microfabrication and microfluidics (myself)

* One cardiothoracic surgeon and one pulmonary physician

* Two experts in bio- and blood- compatible coatings

* One expert in biomimetic artificial vasculature who also has some previous experience in artificial lung design.

As you can see, we have quite a wide array of backgrounds which are all needed to make this project a success. However, as part of this project, we are all experiencing some cross training which is making us better at what we do as well.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Thanks for your interest in the work.


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Excelent article
SalvadorRomo   8/4/2011 10:07:29 PM
Doug, excelent article, I wish if in addition to the interdicipline mentioned in another post, at some point there is an story about the equipment used for the CAD design and the Additive Manufacturing.

Again thanks for this great story,


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Come a long way!
HaroldHallikainen   8/5/2011 11:40:34 AM
I'm very impressed with the progress made in this field! My father was involved in the manufacture of heart/lung machines in the 1960s. Info on machines of that time is available at:







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VERY relevant
Automan   8/5/2011 1:06:53 PM
Design News you can use. I have just been diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. I'm 66 years old and was planning a long retirement after a career as an automotive engineer. Now the prognosis is 3 to 5 years with the possibility of a lung transplant in the future. There is currently no cure.

I will be following this project with great interest.

Dan Barnes 


User Rank
Re: VERY relevant
slyoung   8/5/2011 1:31:47 PM
You may want look at this video http://youtu.be/lAI5rLnnCBE


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