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Mass. General team generates therapeutic nitric oxide from air with an electric spark
2015-10-06
 
 

Mass. General team generates therapeutic nitric oxide from air with an electric spark


Treatment with inhaled nitric oxide (NO) has proven to be life saving in newborns, children and adults with several dangerous conditions, but the availability of the treatment has been limited by the size, weight and complexity of equipment needed to administer the gas and the therapy’s high price. Now a research team led by the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) physician who pioneered the use of inhaled nitric oxide has developed a lightweight, portable system that produces NO from the air by means of an electrical spark. The investigators describe their invention in the July 1 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

An electric spark from an iridium electrode generates therapeutic nitric oxide from the air in a lightweight, portable device designed by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators. (Brian Wilson, MGH Photography Department)


“Nitric oxide is used to treat about 35,000 hospitalized U.S. patients each year – mostly adults with pulmonary hypertension and infants with a condition called persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN),” says Warren M. Zapol, MD, director of the MGH Anesthesia Center for Critical Care Research and emeritus chief of Anesthesia and Critical Care at the hospital, senior author of the Science Translational Medicine report. “But NO therapy is very expensive – here at MGH five days treatment of a newborn with PPHN costs around $14,000 – and current systems use gas delivered in heavy tanks, making ambulatory treatment impractical. Our new system can economically make NO from the nitrogen and oxygen in the air using only small amounts of electric power. This device could enable trials of NO to treat patients with chronic lung diseases and certain kinds of heart failure and would make NO therapy available in parts of the world that don’t have the resources that are currently required.” 


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