Udayavni Special

How NASA engineers developed a ventilator for Covid-19 patients in just 37 days


Team Udayavani, Apr 30, 2020, 5:51 PM IST

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California have developed a high-pressure ventilator prototype specifically tailored to help Covid-19 patients called VITAL, or Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally.

Vital is tailored for Covid-19 patients, it is focused on providing air delicately to stiff lungs. It is meant to provide enough air pressure to patients to inflate their lungs but not so much so that the lungs over-expand.

The team built the ventilator in 37 days after lot of research and planning. Van Buren an engineer at Nasa’s JPL also had some experience in medical field. He had been following the news about the spread of Covid-19 in China with growing concern throughout January and February.

When in early March there was community spread of Covid-19 in Washington and California, he started focusing on what he could do to help. He also learnt that hospitals would not have enough capacity or equipment to handle the influx of Covid patients.

He then met Rob Manning, JPL’s chief engineer and discussed the issue and he found money to form a small team, and the project kicked off on March 16th. After which the group contacted a pulmonologist named Michael Gurevitch who has been working on ventilators for decades. He came in and told the team the exact requirements that were needed for ventilators.

Also, to make VITAL, the team tried to use as many common, off-the-shelf parts as possible, such as tubing, motors, valves, and electronics display, so that anyone manufacturing the device in the future would not need to special order anything needed for a more sophisticated ventilator.

VITAL has passed a key test at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, it is awaiting for approvals by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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