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Swansea partnership pioneers life-saving artificial lung

A unique project involving Swansea University, the Swansea National Health Service (NHS) Trust and Swansea-based Haemair Ltd is pioneering the development of an artificial lung, which has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people around the world.

The device, a blood/air mass exchanger, integrates with the body’s respiratory system and is designed to breathe for conscious, mobile patients whose lungs are damaged or diseased.
As a portable device, it will allow patients to recover outside Intensive Care Units and offers them a better quality of life. It will also lead to substantial cost savings; it is estimated that the device could save the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

The project is led by Swansea University’s Professor Rhodri Williams, through the acclaimed Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded Complex Fluids and Complex Flows Portfolio Partnership.

In turn, the Partnership is exploiting growing expertise in NanoMedicine at the University’s Multidisciplinary Nanotechnology Centre.

Lungs work by exchanging oxygen into, and carbon dioxide out of, the blood stream. As blood has a tendency to clot on contact with artificial surfaces, the project team includes expertise in clinical research in blood clotting, based at the NHS Haemorheology Laboratory in Morriston Hospital.

Haemair Ltd, based at the Technium Digital at the University, is working with the team to provide innovative solutions to ensure that production of the new device is feasible, cost-effective and commercially practicable.

Although a finished product is still some years away, the results of the research to date have been encouraging.