Medical

NASA develops VITAL COVID-19 ventilator prototype in crash program

NASA develops VITAL COVID-19 v...
The ventilator prototype for coronavirus disease patients designed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The ventilator prototype for coronavirus disease patients designed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
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Some of the dozens of engineers involved in creating a ventilator prototype at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory specially targeted to coronavirus disease patients
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Some of the dozens of engineers involved in creating a ventilator prototype at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory specially targeted to coronavirus disease patients
The ventilator prototype for coronavirus disease patients designed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
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The ventilator prototype for coronavirus disease patients designed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California prepare to ship a prototype ventilator for coronavirus disease patients to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York
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Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California prepare to ship a prototype ventilator for coronavirus disease patients to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York
JPL engineers working on the ventilator prototype for coronavirus patients
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JPL engineers working on the ventilator prototype for coronavirus patients
doctors at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City give a thumbs up after testing a ventilator prototype
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Doctors at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City give a thumbs up after testing a ventilator prototype
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To help cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, NASA engineers have developed an inexpensive and easy-to-build high-pressure ventilator. The Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally (VITAL) prototype was completed in only 37 days at the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and passed a critical trial at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City on April 21, 2020.

Fears of a ventilator shortage due to the COVID-19 outbreak has spurred a number of companies to step up and try and help fill the gap, but ventilators are very complicated, robust machines designed to last for years and treat a number of different medical conditions. This means that they are also expensive, slow to build, and require specialized components.

To overcome these obstacles, NASA engineers designed VITAL specifically for COVID-19 patients using fewer parts – many of which are commonly available. This made the machine simpler, faster to build, and easier to maintain. In addition, the design is easy to modify to meet the needs of different facilities, including field hospitals and makeshift care centers set up in convention centers and hotels. On the downside, VITAL patients still need to be sedated and intubated with an oxygen tube, and the machine has a service life of only up to four months.

doctors at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City give a thumbs up after testing a ventilator prototype
Doctors at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City give a thumbs up after testing a ventilator prototype

In addition, NASA says that the Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships at Caltech, which manages JPL, will offer a free license for VITAL and is seeking private medical firms to handle manufacturing. Meanwhile, the space agency is trying to cut through the red tape at the US FDA to get an emergency authorization in days instead of years and has sent one of the prototypes to the Human Simulation Lab in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Mount Sinai for more testing.

"Intensive care units are seeing COVID-19 patients who require highly dynamic ventilators," says Dr. 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."

The video below discusses the VITAL project.

VITAL

Source: NASA

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5 comments
Thud
Bravo! Echos of historical achievements.
Username
"and the machine has a service life of only up to four months". Seriously?
Koolski
Here is the real story in this story: "... cut through the red tape at the US FDA to get an emergency authorization in days instead of years." The engineers, willingness and know how have always been there and all around the country. Get government and useless government bureaucrats out of the way and we can do great things!
Karmudjun
Awesome! As a retired anesthesiologist I know the price of the medical grade ventilators with redundancy & tiered alarm systems (and deep pockets for liability issues when all the redundancy - or humans - fail) does make innovation and procurement slow for all parties involved. Why build a state of the art ventilator and have it undergo the rigorous testing required for FDA certification and the litigious USA only to have it sit in your warehouse while lower cost older technology with proven reliability flies out the door? Why not off the shelf parts & readily available monitoring systems? Proven reliability is the reason. I say a 4 month usage life - if reliable and repairable - is a WONDERFUL development during this crisis....seriously!
Simon Redford
Did you guys miss the 10 day development of the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) breathing aid in the UK? This initiative was lead by the Mercedes F1 racing team working with UCL and other UK Engineering teams. The projects was called Project Pitlane and has already got approval for use by the UK National Health Service. Other F1 teams are cooperating to produce 1000's of these devices. The use of CPAP can prevent the need for invasive sedation and intubation for some patients and relieve pressure on Intensive Care Units.