In a major feat, scientists at the US national space agency NASA have developed a new easy-to-build ‘high-pressure ventilator’ in a matter of just 37 which is expected to help save a lot of lives as the world struggles against the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the press note on the NASA website, the device is called VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally) and it passed a critical test this week at the Ichan School of Medicine in New York. The decoy is designed to treat patients with milder symptoms, thereby keeping the country’s limited supply of traditional ventilators available for patients with more severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Director Michael Watkins said, “We specialize in spacecraft, not medical-device manufacturing. But excellent engineering, rigorous testing and rapid prototyping are some of our specialties. When people at JPL realized they might have what it takes to support the medical community and the broader community, they felt it was their duty to share their ingenuity, expertise and drive”.
The space agency is now seeking FDA approval for the device via an emergency use authorisation, which is a fast-track approval process developed for crisis situations that takes just days rather than years.
Matthew Levin, Associate Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine, said that the team feels confident that the VITAL will be able to safely ventilate patients suffering from the deadly disease in the US and throughout the world. He further also added that the team is also ‘very pleased’ with the result of the testing which was performed in ‘high fidelity human simulation lab’.
Further explaining the device, the team at NASA detailed that VITAL can be built faster and maintained more easily than a traditional ventilator. It is also composed of far fewer parts, many of which are currently available to potential manufacturers through existing supply chains.
Moreover, with flexible design, the device can also be modified for use in field hospitals being set up in convention centres, hotels and other high-capacity facilities across the globe.
The new device, like all ventilators, will require patients to be sedated and an oxygen tube inserted into their airway to breathe. NASA also informed that VITAL would not replace current hospital ventilators as the device is intended to last only three to four months and is specifically tailored to the needs of COVID-19 patients.
The intention with the device, according to NASA, is to decrease the likelihood patients get to that advanced stage of the disease where they require advance ventilator assistance.