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Alberta team building modern ‘iron lung’ for COVID-19 in dire environments

Last Updated Mar 26, 2020 at 11:49 am EDT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — It’s being called a “last resort machine” for when ventilators are no longer available.

Researchers at the University of Calgary, and the University of Alberta are working on creating an emergency pandemic ventilator – a modern-day “iron lung” which was used during the polio pandemic.

The machine, unlike a ventilator that blows air into the lungs, will reduce the pressure around a body to help a patient breathe.

“The machine that you’re developing doesn’t have to touch the air that’s going into the patient if you imagine working in some isolated region, that’s short on materials in crisis situation….good filters and everything here, that may not be the case elsewhere,” said Mark Ungrin with the University of Calgary.

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Biomedical engineers are scientists are working on a prototype that’s simple enough to replicate as a last resort to treat patients, but they’re not working out of university shops where they have the best grade equipment.

The team moved furniture in Ungrin’s living room and made a couple of trips to the hardware store to create the prototype, all while practicing physical distancing with each other.

“So in a way we had forced (the machine) into exactly the situation that someone in an emergency situation might have to deal with,” Mechanical Engineer professor with the Univerity of Alberta, Michael Lipsett said. “We had to create instrumentation to check the performance of our system, we had to duct tape things together.”

The machine would be used in a dire situation where there are no more ventilators available and it’s life or death for a patient.

The team is hoping to be able to make a basic and reliable model that can be easily made and manufactured in large numbers.

-with files from Crystal Laderas, CityNews