NASA brings a lot of very powerful minds together to solve all sorts of problems—and now, they're focusing that brainpower toward the COVID-19 fight.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Califonia, which usually designs and builds robotic spacecraft related parts and projects, has been designing and making ventilators. They announced last week the successful build of a prototype ventilator in 37 days.
NASA engineers designed the new machine to be built quickly, with a flexible design that can be used in field hospitals and temporary locations. The device was tested at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
The new high-pressure ventilator called VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally) is intended not to replace current ventilators, but instead, aims to supplement them and is designed specifically to treat COVID-19 patients. VITAL can be built much faster than traditional ventilators and has fewer parts, which are easier to find. It's intended to last for a few months rather than a few years, like traditional hospital ventilators.
VITAL passed the “critical test” at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NASA said in a statement on April 23.
"Intensive care units are seeing COVID-19 patients who require highly dynamic ventilators," J.D. Polk, NASA's chief health and medical officer. "The intention with VITAL is to decrease the likelihood patients will get to that advanced stage of the disease and require more advanced ventilator assistance."
"We were very pleased with the results of the testing we performed in our high-fidelity human simulation lab," said Dr. Matthew Levin, Director of Innovation for the Human Simulation Lab and Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, Preoperative and Pain Medicine, and Genetics and Genomics Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine. "The NASA prototype performed as expected under a wide variety of simulated patient conditions. The team feels confident that the VITAL ventilator will be able to safely ventilate patients suffering from COVID-19 both here in the United States and throughout the world."
Check out this video from NASA about the VITAL ventilator prototype:
NASA is looking to the FDA for expedited approval of the device under an emergency use authorization, per the official statement. The process normally takes years, but a fast-track system is in place to handle crisis situations, such as the coronavirus pandemic health crisis we now face.
NASA also says that, as part of the effort to get the new ventilators manufactured and ready for use in medical facilities, they will be offering a free license for VITAL through The Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships at Caltech, which manages JPL for NASA. They are currently reaching out to find potential manufacturers for the device once it's approved.
These new ventilators have the potential to help many patients, and the people at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory felt like it was their “duty to share their ingenuity, expertise and drive” to help fight the global health crisis.
What do you think about this recent news from NASA? Sound off in the comments.