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UC San Diego Engineers Design Low-Cost DIY Ventilators To Aid Coronavirus Efforts

A MADVent ventilator made by UCSD engineers and physicians is pictured above,...

Photo by Courtesy of UC San Diego

Above: A MADVent ventilator made by UCSD engineers and physicians is pictured above, July 7, 2020.

Coronavirus cases are rising sharply across the country and here in San Diego. UC San Diego researchers are adapting existing technologies — ventilators — to help ease the situation. They’ve constructed a ventilator system that’s only a few hundred dollars and can take 15 minutes to put together.

The research and design is published online in a peer-reviewed journal. UC San Diego physician Lonnie Petersen says ventilators are critical for treating coronavirus patients, as they experience respiratory issues.

But she says advanced ventilators can cost tens of thousands of dollars and can be difficult for health care institutions to procure quickly. But at the same time, low-cost ventilators may not be advanced enough to meet all the needs of patients, since coronavirus is such a complicated disease.

“You do need relatively advanced systems that are able to adjust and sense the airflow output in the patient, because the elasticity of the lungs can change pretty rapidly and that changes the whole ventilatory requirements of the device,” Petersen said.

Reported by Shalina Chatlani

So the team designed a ventilator system that relies on measuring pressure, rather than airflow volume. Measuring airflow volume requires expensive sensors, which drives up the cost of sophisticated ventilators. The team also put together their ventilator system — called MADVent — using materials that aren’t limited in health-care supply chains, said James Friend, UC San Diego engineer.

“The whole intent behind the design really is to make sure that even in resource limited settings, even during a pandemic, you can get your hands on the parts to put one of these together,” Friend said. “You can make one of these with parts that remain available today.”

Friend says the device can’t replace a ventilator in an ICU that’s meant to care for a critically ill patient. But, he says it can fill a gap in providing a low-cost but effective device for other patients as coronavirus cases surge.

Researchers say they aren’t selling the ventilators. Instead they made the design available to the public so the research can be used in an emergency if need be.

The research was funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research. It hasn’t been approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but researchers hope to get that approval soon.

Listen to this story by Shalina Chatlani.

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Photo of Shalina Chatlani

Shalina Chatlani
Science and Technology Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover all things science and technology — from the biotech industry in San Diego to rooftop solar energy on new homes. I'm interested in covering the human side of science and technology, like barriers to entry for people of color or gender equity issues on biotech boards.

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