Rice-developed technology helps preterm newborns in impoverished countries breathe without eye damage 2023

Students at Rice University have created a new medical device that will assist premature infants in developing nations receive oxygen without harming their eyesight.

According to the World Health Organization, up to 95% of the 2.4 million premature infants delivered each year require respiratory support. The most effective form of treatment is a conventional CPAP with an air-oxygen blending system, which is essential for maintaining adequate oxygen levels.

Unfortunately, these devices can cost thousands of dollars, so medical professionals in countries with limited resources are frequently compelled to improvise treatment. This can result in complications such as lung injury and/or retinopathy of prematurity, which occurs when premature infants receive an excessive amount of oxygen. In severe cases, blindness may result.

Harlan Cook, Ojas Dumbre, Brennan Keogh, and Leora Maksoud make up the Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK).

Since electricity is not always available or stable in low-resource environments, it created a simple, low-cost air blender that could run without electricity.

The team based the design of the 3D-printed device on a hypodermic. A narrow cylinder is connected to a plunger that fits into the syringe’s tube and allows oxygen to pass through. Due to the Venturi effect, the oxygen content diffuses as it travels through the cylinder, and the plunger can be adjusted to alter the air-to-oxygen ratio entering the cylinder. The final product is an inexpensive oxygen delivery system for premature infants.

The team is currently refining its device in the hopes that it will ultimately be mass-produced and distributed to areas in need.

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