Industry partnership to engineer respiratory aids which

A collaborative two-year project between Swansea University’s College of Engineering and industry is helping to develop respiratory aids which mimic the performance of healthy lungs.


The project, entitled the Development of responsive control systems for an artificial lung, which will allow immobile patients with lung disease to enjoy a better quality of life, has been supported by a £215K grant through the Welsh Government’s Academic Expertise for Business (A4B) programme.


Academics from the University’s College of Engineering have joined forces with Swansea-based companies Haemair Ltd, Haemaflow Ltd, DTR Medical Ltd, and Staffordshire-based EGS Technologies Ltd.


The work builds on the collaboration between the University and the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, which has established Swansea as a major centre in the understanding of blood and its properties.


The project’s director Dr Michael Lewis, Senior Lecturer at Swansea University, said: “Lung disease is a major problem that affects a large number of people, particularly in Wales. Although Extracorporeal Life Support systems – or artificial lungs – can support immobile patients with lung disease, these devices restrict patients to high-dependency units in hospitals.


“This innovative project aims to develop a prototype small-scale respiratory aid, which is capable of regulating blood oxygenation and carbon dioxide removal, in response to patients’ different metabolic requirements – ultimately allowing them to enjoy a better quality of life.”


Edwina Hart, Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science described the project as a prime example of the highly innovative collaborative research and development activities taking place in Welsh universities.


“This device has the potential to have a real impact on the lives of many people while the collaboration supports local business. In the longer term, high profile projects of this calibre can help promote the capabilities of Welsh universities and research centres internationally.”


The project has two closely related aims, both of which relate primarily to blood oxygenation by direct blood/air mass exchange.


The first aim is to develop an automated control system for a respiratory aid, which is capable of modifying blood oxygenation and carbon dioxide removal, in order to meet the changing requirements of active patients.


The second aim is to study the distribution of blood flow through small-scale prototype respiratory aids.


In contrast to existing devices, the aim is to produce a respiratory aid that does not set pre-specified blood gas compositions. Instead, this innovation will adjust gas compositions to changing metabolic demands.


“The project will enable respiratory aids to mimic the performance of healthy lungs,” added Dr Michael Kingsley, Senior Lecturer and Research Supervisor on the project.


“This will mean in future, patients with lung disease will no longer be restricted to being treated within high-dependency units.”


Professor P Rhodri Williams leads the team from the University’s Complex Fluids group, which will study the detailed blood flow pattern within the device.


He said: “A deeper understanding of these flows is needed both to maximise the controllability of the device and to minimise the risk of blood clots forming in the device. This study has wider applications to other medical devices that contact blood.”


Professor Bill Johns of Haemair Ltd said: “This project builds on five years of fruitful collaboration between Haemair, Swansea University and Professor Adrian Evans and his colleagues at the Morriston Hospital. A successful outcome should help us ensure both the safety and effectiveness of our artificial lung.”


Dr Dale Rogers of Haemaflow Ltd said: “The work will provide an ideal test bed for the company’s novel instruments for measuring blood gases. The instruments will help the project and the project will give Haemaflow the experience to evolve designs for a wide range of potential applications in Medicine and Sports Science.”


The project is currently seeking volunteers to take part in the cardiovascular assessment stage of the research. Participants will need to be aged between 18 and 58 years and generally healthy, with no history of cardiovascular problems.


Participation will involve visiting the Exercise Physiology Laboratory at Swansea University on four separate occasions for a complete cardiorespiratory assessment. All volunteers will be provided with copies of their results.


For further information, please contact Dr Melitta McNarry, Research Officer, on 01792 513069 or email: