NASA develops ventilator prototype in just 37 days

Researchers at NASA developed a “high-pressure” ventilator for treating patients with the coronavirus in just 37 days and it is seeking expedited approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In a Thursday statement, NASA said that the medical machine “passed a critical test” this week. The device, named VITAL, or Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally, was tested at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City on a “high fidelity human patient simulator.”

Matthew Levin, a director at the school, said they were “very pleased” with the results of the test and that the 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,” he added.  

NASA is now seeking quick FDA approval for the device through an emergency use authorization. They said the device is designed to “free up the nation’s limited supply of traditional ventilators so they may be used on patients with the most severe COVID-19 symptoms.”  

States across the country have sought out ventilators from the federal government as well as private suppliers amid a national shortage of the essential medical device. 

The new machine can be built more quickly and uses fewer parts than a traditional ventilator, according to NASA. 

“We specialize in spacecraft, not medical-device manufacturing,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Michael Watkins. “But excellent engineering, rigorous testing and rapid prototyping are some of our specialties. When people at JPL realized they might have what it takes to support the medical community and the broader community, they felt it was their duty to share their ingenuity, expertise and drive.”

NASA noted that the machine would not replace current ventilators, which can last for years and are built to help a larger range of patients than those with coronavirus. It said in a Friday statement that VITAL is intended to last up to four months and is “specifically tailored” for coronavirus patients.  

Michelle Easter, a mechatronics engineer, in a video on NASA’s site called the device “a crazy project.”

“We have the potential to save human lives, people that we might know, our neighbors, our families, and that intensity is amazing. It’s amazing, and as stressful as it’s been for everybody in the last couple of weeks, not one of us can stop,” she said.

Tags Coronavirus Medical equipment NASA ventilators

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