Researchers in Cleveland have built an artificial lung that is so efficient it can breathe regular air rather than the pure oxygen required by current artificial lungs. The technology makes possible the idea of a man-made lung that is far more portable--and possibly implantable--for the nearly 200 million people suffering from some degree of lung disease.
Current artificial lungs are inefficient and cumbersome, requiring large tanks of oxygen--their oxygen exchange efficiency is so poor that they can only breathe the pure stuff--that render them more or less stationary. The reliance on pure oxygen also limits their lifespans, as they need a fresh supply every few days.The new lung, built by Case Western Reserve University researchers, is modeled on the natural human lung and contains a bunch of breathable silicone rubber analogs of blood vessels that branch out like real blood vessels down to the point that they reach a diameter smaller than one quarter that of a human hair. This bio-mimicking miniaturization offers a much better surface-area-to-volume ratio, lending the device its higher oxygen exchange efficiency.