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Clinical Center Doctors Testing 3D-Printed Miniature Ventilator

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Small plastic device next to a thumbdrive
Caption: A USB flash drive (front) next to the 3D-printed miniature ventilator (back). Credit: William Pritchard, Clinical Center, NIH

Here at the NIH Clinical Center, we are proud to be considered a world-renowned research hospital that provides hope through pioneering clinical research to improve human health. But what you may not know is that our doctors are constantly partnering with public and private sectors to come up with innovative technologies that will help to advance health outcomes.

I’m excited to bring to you a story that is perfect example of the ingenuity of our NIH doctors working with global strategic partners to create potentially life-saving technologies. This story begins during the COVID-19 pandemic with the global shortage of ventilators to help patients breathe. Hospitals had a profound need for inexpensive, easy-to-use, rapidly mass-produced resuscitation devices that could be quickly distributed in areas of critical need.

Through strategic partnerships, our Clinical Center doctors learned about and joined an international group of engineers, physicians, respiratory therapists, and patient advocates using their engineering skills to create a ventilator that was functional, affordable, and intuitive. After several iterations and bench testing, they devised a user-friendly ventilator.

Transparent plastic mini ventilator
Caption: The miniature ventilator connected to an oxygen line (asterisk) and the breathing tube to the patient (crosshatch). The exhaust (dagger) is recessed to prevent accidental blockage. Credit: William Pritchard, Clinical Center, NIH

Then, with the assistance of 3D-printing technology, they improved the original design and did something pretty incredible: the team created the smallest single-patient ventilator seen to date. The device is just 2.4 centimeters (about 1 inch) in diameter with a length of 7.4 centimeters (about 3 inches).

A typical ventilator in a hospital obviously is much larger and has a bellows system. It fills with oxygen and then forces it into the lungs followed by the patient passively exhaling. These systems have multiple moving parts, valves, hoses, and electronic or mechanical controls to manage all aspects of the oxygen flow into the lungs.

But our miniature, 3D-printed ventilator is single use, disposable, and has no moving parts. It’s based on principles of fluidics to ventilate patients by automatically oscillating between forced inspiration and assisted expiration as airway pressure changes. It requires only a continuous supply of pressurized oxygen.

The possibilities of this 3D-printed miniature ventilator are broad. The ventilators could be easily used in emergency transport, potentially treating battlefield casualties or responding to disasters and mass casualty events like earthquakes.

While refining a concept is important, the key is converting it to actual use, which our doctors are doing admirably in their preclinical and clinical studies. NIH’s William Pritchard, Andrew Mannes, Brad Wood, John Karanian, Ivane Bakhutashvili, Matthew Starost, David Eckstein, and medical student Sheridan Reed studied and have already tested the ventilators in swine with acute lung injury, a common severe outcome in a number of respiratory threats including COVID-19.

In the study, the doctors tested three versions of the device built to correspond to mild, moderate, and severe lung injury. The respirators provided adequate support for moderate and mild lung injuries, and the doctors recall how amazing it was initially to witness a 190-pound swine ventilated by this miniature ventilator.

The doctors believe that the 3D-printed miniature ventilator is a potential “game changer” from start to finish since it is lifesaving, small, simple to use, can be easily and inexpensively printed and stored, and does not require additional maintenance. They recently published their preclinical trial results in the journal Science Translational Medicine [1].

The NIH team is preparing to initiate first-in-human trials here at the Clinical Center in the coming months. Perhaps, in the not-too-distant future, a device designed to help people breathe could fit into your pocket next to your phone and keys.

Reference:

[1] In-line miniature 3D-printed pressure-cycled ventilator maintains respiratory homeostasis in swine with induced acute pulmonary injury. Pritchard WF, Karanian JW, Jung C, Bakhutashvili I, Reed SL, Starost MF, Froelke BR, Barnes TR, Stevenson D, Mendoza A, Eckstein DJ, Wood BJ, Walsh BK, Mannes AJ. Sci Transl Med. 2022 Oct 12;14(666):eabm8351.

Links:

Clinical Center (NIH)

Andrew Mannes (Clinical Center)

Bradford Wood (Clinical Center)

David Eckstein (Clinical Center)

Note: Dr. Lawrence Tabak, who performs the duties of the NIH Director, has asked the heads of NIH’s Institutes and Centers (ICs) to contribute occasional guest posts to the blog to highlight some of the interesting science that they support and conduct. This is the 21st in the series of NIH IC guest posts that will run until a new permanent NIH director is in place.


Special Thanks for A Job Well Done

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Two women and two men standing in front of windows
I took part in the July 15 meeting of the NIH Clinical Center’s Research Hospital Board (CCRHRB). The board helps to ensure that the Clinical Center meets or exceeds its standards of excellence. The meeting was also a real special one, bringing the departures of two outstanding board members: Ruth Williams-Brinkley, president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc.; and Laura Forese, executive vice president and COO of New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Laura will be especially missed. She has presided over the CCRHRB with distinction from its first inception in July 2016. Afterwards, photos were taken to mark the occasion. That includes this one showing (l-r) Tara Schwetz, NIH’s Acting Principal Deputy Director; James Gilman, CEO of the Clinical Center; Laura Forese; and me. Credit: NIH

Cutting Ribbon for NIH Clinical Center Pharmacy

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It was great to take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony and officially open the NIH Clinical Center Pharmacy. The fully renovated, 10,000-square-foot facility, located on the first floor of the building’s southeast wing, consists of three parts: the outpatient pharmacy, which dispenses medications to patients who visit the clinical center for periodic checkups or treatment as part of a clinical study; the unit-dose pharmacy, which prepares medications in small doses for patients while staying at the Clinical Center; and the intravenous admixture unit (IVAU), which formulates sterile products, as needed, for patients at the Clinical Center. The Clinical Center Pharmacy will perform all of the above with the help of state-of-the-art automation, including a robotic medication management system.

I’m third from the left in the ribbon-cutting line. To my right, scissors in hand, (l-r) are Richard DeCederfelt, the Clinical Center’s Acting Pharmacy Chief, and James Gilman, CEO of the Clinical Center. Cutting the ribbon to my left (l-r) are Alfred Johnson, NIH’s Deputy Director for Management, and Marilyn Farinre, the Clinical Center’s Pharmacy Operations Chief. Looking on just behind them (l-r) are Tara Schwetz, NIH’s Acting Principal Deputy Director, and Michael Gottesman, NIH’s Deputy Director for Intramural Research. The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on May 18 in the Outpatient Pharmacy Waiting Room. Credit: NIH

A Special Thanksgiving Day Concert

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What an inspiring afternoon I spent at the NIH Clinical Center. Caesar Sant, a 13-year-old violinist and child prodigy whose family now lives in the Memphis area, gave a special Thanksgiving Day concert. I got to accompany on guitar, but the moment belonged to his amazing talent. Caesar was born in August 2008 with sickle cell disease. As a participant in an NIH clinical trial, Caesar recently received a bone marrow transplant in hopes of curing his disease. So far so good.


Accepting the COVID-19 Vaccine

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Francis Collins Vaccination
I was thrilled to roll up my sleeve and get the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine today at the NIH Clinical Center. As NIH Director, I’ve followed closely the development of these first vaccines, and I know they have been rigorously tested and found to be safe and effective. I encourage everyone to accept the vaccines when offered to you. It’s our best chance to turn the tide on the pandemic. Also receiving the vaccine today were Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Anthony Fauci, Director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Colleen McGowan, Director of NIH’s Office of Research Services; and six frontline healthcare workers at the NIH Clinical Center. Credit: NIH

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