OSU Professor Develops New Technology to Address Ventilator Shortage

A moment of pride for Pakistan. 
A project funded by the CCTS COVID-19 Emergency Voucher Program. As the COVID-19 pandemic grew in Ohio, Dr. Syed Ghazanfar Husain, Associate Professor of Surgery at Ohio State, witnessed first-hand the impact of the disease when he and his entire surgery team started caring for patients infected with the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Husain, an 11-year veteran of OSU and the OSU Medical Center, knew Ohio’s efforts at slowing the spread and flattening the curve had been mostly successful, but other states weren’t as lucky. Dr. Husain had friends in the State of New York, which had grown into a hotspot, where cases were rising rapidly. Dr. Husain was born in Hyderabad Pakidtan, did his early schooling from hyderabad while later getting his medicine degree from Dow University of Health  Sciences in 1997.
Like other states where cases were rising rapidly, New York was running out of personal protective equipment such as facemasks, gloves and face shields, and in more dire situations, ventilators. In fact, the ventilator shortage in New York eventually became so dire that Gov. Cuomo announced that two patients could be intubated on one machine, a course of action that drew skepticism from the medical community.
The issue, Dr. Husain explains, comes from not knowing the amount ventilation each patient is getting, if two patients are placed one the same machine.
“The problem is unequal distribution between two patients, in a situation where two patients are placed on the same ventilator, you cannot control how much ventilation each patient gets. If one patient has stiffer lungs than the other and needs more air, we have no way of measuring that and making sure that the appropriate patient gets the ventilation that they need”.
Dr. Husain imagined that there could be a better way to measure the ventilation, ensuring the safety of both patients. He envisioned a flowmeter that could be used to measure the amount of ventilation being distributed to each patient.
After approaching the OSU Center for Research, Education, and Advancement of Transdisciplinary Exploration (CREATE) for assistance in developing a prototype, Dr. Husain contacted the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) to discuss feasibility of production with John Brockbrader and Mary Pancake, CDME Program Managers. Heeding their advice, Dr. Husain applied for a voucher from the OSU Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) to fund his project.
“The CCTS was fantastic,” Dr. Husain said. “From the time they accepted my application, reviewed it and released the funding was less than 24 hours”.
After receiving funding, engineers developed a prototype for testing. However, Dr. Husain found himself in a conundrum. His device was only to be used in the direst of circumstances – meaning he would not have the ability to test it on patients in Ohio, as Ohio had thankfully not seen the surge that New York had. To test the prototype, he needed to use it on as human-like subjects as possible to mimic real world conditions.
An exception was given for Dr. Husain to test his prototype at the OSU Clinical Skills Education and Assesment Center (CSEAC), a center with state-of-the-art simulators that are used for medical training. Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of the center, an exception was given to Dr. Husain to test his prototype in as close to a real-life situation as possible.
“I was cautiously optimistic about testing the device” he remarked. “Normally when you develop these things you have to test and something goes wrong and then you try to figure out what went wrong and retest”.
The test went better than he expected, and in fact, it ran perfectly. The flowmeter could track the level of ventilation going to each patient, and in doing so, they were able to see which patient required more or less of the ventilation.
The device was a success.
Dr. Husain is now hoping to share his device with other medical professionals around the world – something OSU’s Center for Technological Commercialization is working with him to accomplish.
“Specifically, we are trying to reach hard hit States like New York, but also hard-hit countries like Brazil, Pakistan and India. We used meters that were commercially available globally, so that the device we developed could be used successfully all over the world”.
Now Dr. Husain is writing a scientific paper about the device and his process. Though his project was a resounding success, he hopes that we will never see the device used in a real-life situation.
“We hope that we never have to use the device we developed, but if there is another pandemic like this or a second wave, it is there if we need it”.


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