Friday, September 19, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Unapproved device buys time for new pair of lungs

By
From page A7 | July 06, 2014 |

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jon Sacker was near death, too sick for doctors to attempt the double lung transplant he so desperately needed. His only chance: An experimental machine that essentially works like dialysis for the lungs.

But the device has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and there were none in the country. It would take an overnight race into Canada to retrieve a Hemolung.

Sacker rapidly improved as the device cleansed his blood of carbon dioxide — so much so that in mid-March, 20 days later, he got a transplant after all.

“That machine is a lifesaver,” Sacker said from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Sacker’s struggle highlights a critical void: There is no fully functioning artificial lung to buy time for someone awaiting a transplant, like patients who need a new heart can stay alive with an implanted heart pump or those with failing kidneys can turn to dialysis.

“It seems like it should be possible for the lung as well,” said Dr. Andrea Harabin of the National Institutes of Health.

NIH-funded researchers are working to develop wearable “respiratory assist devices” that could do the lungs’ two jobs — supplying oxygen and getting rid of carbon dioxide — without tethering patients to a bulky bedside machine.

It has proven challenging.

“The lung is an amazing organ for gas exchange. It’s not so easy to develop a mechanical device that can essentially replace the function of a lung,” said bioengineer William Federspiel of Pitt’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, who helped invent the bedside Hemolung and is working on these next-step devices.

So when Sacker needed an emergency fix, Dr. Christian Bermudez, UPMC’s chief of cardiothoracic transplants, gambled on the unapproved Hemolung. “We had no other options,” he said.

————

Cystic fibrosis destroyed Sacker’s own lungs. The Moore, Oklahoma, man received his first double lung transplant in 2012. He thrived until a severe infection last fall damaged his new lungs, spurring rejection. By February, he needed another transplant.

The odds were long. Donated lungs are in such short supply that only 1,923 transplants were performed last year, just 80 of them repeats, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Still, the Pittsburgh hospital, known for tackling tough cases, agreed to try — only to have Sacker, 33, arrive too debilitated for an operation. A ventilator was providing adequate oxygen. But carbon dioxide had built to toxic levels in his body.

When a ventilator isn’t enough, today’s recourse is a decades-old technology so difficult that only certain hospitals, including Pittsburgh, offer it. Called ECMO, it rests the lungs by draining blood from the body, oxygenating it and removing carbon dioxide, and then returning it. Sacker was too sick to try.

“I didn’t see any other alternative other than withdrawing support from this young man,” Bermudez said.

Then he remembered the Hemolung, invented by Pittsburgh engineering colleagues as an alternative to ECMO. It was designed to treat patients with a different lung disease, called COPD, during crises when their stiffened lungs retain too much carbon dioxide, Federspiel said.

The Hemolung recently was approved in Europe and Canada; its maker is planning the stricter U.S. testing required by FDA. For Sacker to become the first U.S. Hemolung patient, hospital safety officials would have to agree and notify FDA.

“We had actually just almost decided to turn the ventilator off, because we were putting him through suffering,” Sacker’s wife, Sallie, recalled. Then the phone rang: The experiment was on.

But Pittsburgh-based ALung Technologies Inc. couldn’t get a device shipped for a few days. Doctors feared Sacker wouldn’t live that long. Late at night, ALung CEO Peter DeComo tracked down a device in Toronto, and started driving. It took some explaining to get the unapproved medical device past U.S. border officials. But the next day, Sacker was hooked up, and quickly improved.

————

Federspiel, also an ALung co-founder, said researchers’ ultimate goal is a fully functioning, portable artificial lung.

Varieties under development consist of small bundles of hollow, permeable fibers. As blood pumps over the fibers, oxygen flows outside to the blood and carbon dioxide returns, explained Dr. Bartley Griffith of the University of Maryland. He has reported success in sheep, and hopes to begin the first human tests within three years.

The idea: Small tubes would connect the fiber device, worn around the waist, to blood vessels, so that patients could move around, keeping up their muscle strength instead of being restricted to bed.

There’s “at the least the inkling that we can dream of sending somebody home with an artificial lung,” Griffith said.

A bridge to transplant isn’t the only need, said Harabin of NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which is funding work by Griffith, Federspiel and others.

Thousands each year suffer acute lung failure from trauma or disease that hits too suddenly to even consider transplant. Researchers like Griffith want to test if these experimental technologies could offer them a better chance to heal than ventilators, which can further damage lungs.

————

Back in Pittsburgh, Sacker is slowly gaining strength with his second set of transplanted lungs. He doesn’t remember the fight for his life; he was sedated through it. But his wife has told him how touch and go it was.

“You get a call at the last second about a device that has never been used here in the United States — that’s a miracle,” he said.

————

By Lauran Neergaard, AP medical writer. AP Video Journalist Joseph Frederick contributed to this report.

 

Comments

comments

The Associated Press

.

News

Grant means new push for moving tracks out of town

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Some say council needs to reconsider MRAP

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

UC to create $250 million venture capital fund

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A1

 
School district may redevelop downtown site

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1

DUI suspected in crash

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Master Gardeners share their wisdom at free workshops

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

 
Scots vote to stay in UK

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

France strikes Islamic State group’s depot in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Man faces arson charge in huge California wildfire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Telling tales, on ‘Davisville’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Volunteers sought to make veggie bags

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Storyteller will draw on music, dance

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Woodland Healthcare offering flu shots

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Putah Creek Bike Path to close temporarily

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Little Free Libraries open at Montgomery

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

 
Project Linus seeks donations

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Rabid bat found at Holmes Junior High

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Students invited to apply for Blue & White grants

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Halloween costume sale benefits preschool

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Register to vote by Oct. 20

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Free workout class set at library

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Explorit: Lots of ways to be a volunteer

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Sierra Club remembers longtime walker

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

DHS Classes of 1954 and 1955 will hold 60th reunion

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Nonprofits can get DCN’s help

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Davis maps available at Chamber office

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Need a new best friend?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Reception benefits endangered gorillas

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Downtown history tour planned in October

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

Sutter Farmers Market offers local goods

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
Wolk applauds approval of stronger rules for olive oil

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

Davis hosts its own climate change rally

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
Qigong classes available for heart health

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

.

Forum

Sick of being the bad guy

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Educate homeless with dogs

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Cheers and Jeers: Not the end of the rainbow

By Our View | From Page: A6

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

Return to previous plan

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Save the ‘pine cone place’

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Affirm our community values

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Project has safety risks

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Learn more about Paso Fino

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
.

Sports

Blue Devil volleyballers hold off Herd

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Aggies’ new energy could be scary for Big West

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

No rest for the weary: Aggie TE Martindale busy on and off the field

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Devils hope the light bulb turns on at Edison

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

River Cats and Giants sign two-year deal

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Mustangs are no match for DHS boys in water polo

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

Take Zona and Bama this week

By Bob Dunning | From Page: B2

 
A’s slide continues as Rangers sweep

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

.

Features

Name Droppers: Awards keep coming for UC Davis retiree

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
.

Business

Redesigned 2015 Escalade remains breed all its own

By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

Carol L. Walsh

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Friday, September 19, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A10

 
.

Real Estate Review

Featured Listing

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

Professional Services Directory

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

Taylor Morrison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

Malek Baroody

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Norcal Land

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

Robin Garland

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

Karen Waggoner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Dana Hawkins

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Martha Bernauer

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Joe Kaplan

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Lynne Wegner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Remax

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Melrina A Maggiora

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER10

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

Julie Leonard

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

Kim Eichorn

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

Lyon Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Jamie Madison & Associates

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Marcelo Campos

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Julie Partain

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Bob Bockwinkel

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Juan Ramirez

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Kim Merrel Lamb

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Chris Snow

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

James Hanna

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

Raul Zamora

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

Susan von Geldern

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

Travis Credit Union

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER20

Karen Waggoner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

Jamie Madison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

Tracy Harris

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER22

Lisa Haass

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER22

First Street Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER24