McMaster University

McMaster University

Development of an Artifical Placenta

The ultimate goal of this research activity is to develop a medical device that can be connected to the circulating blood and that provides additional gas exchange. The target population for this device are term and preterm infants suffering from end-stage respiratory failure with immanent death or severe respiratory disease that requires very aggressive ventilation with a high risk of severe permanent lung  damage. The device shall have a high efficiency with a small priming volume, shall work in ambient air, shall be connected to the natural umbilical vessels, shall be pump less and biocompatible and shall have a modular concept so that it can be easily adjusted to various body sizes.

We have established an impressive network of researchers and are proud to collaborate with three professors (Dr. Selvaganapathy, Dr. Brash, Dr. Brook) at the Faculty of Bio-Engineering at McMaster. Dr. Fusch has also been cross-appointed to this faculty in 2010, a status which allows him to accept and supervise  Masters students from the BME program - as is the case with Asma Manaan (since Jan 2012). Our network also includes Dr. Anthony Chan and his co-worker Dr. Les Berry from McMaster’s Children’s  Hospital, as well as Prof. Wagner from the Institute for Polymer Technology at the Free University in Berlin and A. Pfaff from the Pfaff Company in Freiburg (both Germany).

So far we have been able to create a prototype that has been extensively tested and optimized in-vitro and also first animal experiments in newborn piglets have been quite successful in normalizing the arterial oxygen saturation to normal levels. We believe that we have provided proof of principle that  this concept works. In April 2013 we received the approval of our CHRP program grant (545.000 Can$ from 2013 - 2016). We have filed a US patent to protect the intellectual property of our group.

Schematic Illustration of artificial placenta - McMaster University, Pediatrics

We are currently searching for industrial partners to apply for different funding agencies, a process which is facilitated with an existing partnership of a suitable Canadian company. An exciting actual subproject is to solve the coating problem, i.e. to develop a “coating” procedure for the inner surface of the oxygenator as well as to create a safe, wide bore access through the umbilical vessels in order to assure sufficient flow through the device. Collaborations with institutions at McMaster (Faculty of Bio-Engineering) and at the international level (Pfaff GmbH, Freiburg, Germany) have been successfully made to solve this issue. The work has also resulted in one peer-reviewed publication, three peer-reviewed conference papers, one manuscript accepted by a high-impact peer reviewed journal as well as five oral or poster presentations at national and international conferences. We have also been invited to give a lecture in May 2013 at the 9th International Conference on Pediatric Mechanical Circulatory Support Systems & Pediatric Cardiopulmonary Perfusion in Hershey, PA, USA.

This research will hopefully result in an improved survival rate of newborn infants with the most severe form of lung disease.

(Above: Schematic illustration of the artificial placenta)

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