Ray of hope: Device to fight lung diseases in the making

Ray of hope: Device to fight lung diseases in the making

Pollution is said to be the main cause for lung failure

We need six litres of air every minute to breathe. Since people are exposed to pollutants in the air on a daily basis, they are vulnerable to lung failure, the fourth leading cause of deaths worldwide.

One can transplant a heart or a kidney or a liver. But, transplanting a lung is not a feasible option owing to several medical constraints. Even though medical devices to aid individuals with failed lungs exist, it comes at an exorbitant cost. So as the treatment procedure, that is beyond the reach of a common man.

A group of scientists at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras are working on a device that aims to extend the life of a person with lung problems. “If you have a heart attack, the end comes in matter of three minutes in case of no proper medical attention.

But, if you have a lung failure, you will have to wait till death comes calling,” said A Subrahmanyam, Department of Physics, IIT-Madras.

“At the age of 45, 50 per cent of the lungs of a majority of the population goes bad. To be precise, it is not due to smoking nicotine, but inhaling polluted air,” he noted. He along with his associates are developing a lung assist devices incorporating modern developments in Nano-technology. According to Subrahmanyam, the result is ‘promising and encouraging’.

Lung has a membrane which allows oxygen inside, while removing other gases out. By breathing polluted air, this membrane is affected.

 The team of scientists have developed nano thin films to imitate the property of this membrane. Though the preliminary experiments using lung assist device show promising results, the device is not yet complete.

“We will start conducting experiments on animals by the end of this year.  It might take a few years to perfect the device, before we zero in on humans for test,” Subrahmanyam said.

Paper presentation

Speaking to Deccan Herald after presenting a paper on lung assist devices at the recently concluded first Indo-Canadian Symposium on Nano-science and Technology at National Institute of Engineering (NIE), in the city, Subrahmanyam said that another team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA was working on a similar project.

Although the device faces a few technical glitches, the device when complete would indeed be a boon to several persons afflicted with lung related health disorders.

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