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Israeli, US Researchers Develop New Device to Eliminate Mucus Secretion from Obstructed Airways

Researchers in Israel and the U.S. have developed a new technology that can be used to unclog and eliminate mucus secretions from the airways of patients with various respiratory diseases, including cystic fibrosis (CF).

The announcement was made by BGN Technologies, the technology company of Ben-Gurion University (BGU), which markets innovations developed in its lab.

The new tech was developed in a collaboration between BGU’s David Katoshevski, PhD, from the unit of environmental engineering, and Yuval Cavari, MD, of Soroka Medical Center’s pediatric intensive care unit, both in Israel, working together with University of Cincinnati’s Ephraim Gutmark, PhD, from the college of engineering and applied sciences and college of medicine, and Iris Little, MD, assistant professor in the division of endocrinology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (Cincinnati Children’s).

Airway secretions — the production of mucus — are involved in several respiratory diseases, including CF, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and bronchiectasis. However, there is currently no effective therapy to either directly or indirectly treat the small airways of the lungs.

Cystic fibrosis affects these small airways, where mucus-producing glands induce the production of hyper-concentrated mucus that plugs up the airways due to impaired mucus clearance mechanisms.

“Finding treatments for small airways diseases is of special interest to us, since children’s airways are more susceptible to airway obstruction due to secretion because of smaller airways cross sectional area. Cincinnati Children’s is a world leader in treating patients with CF, and airway clearance is an integral part of their clinical care practice,” Little said in a press release.

The idea behind the new technology was that concurrent application of low-frequency flow oscillations and high-frequency acoustic waves could help mucus detach from the airway wall. The mucus could then be removed, either by breaking it down or by agglomerating, or gathering together mucus lumps.

The technology works by introducing air pressure and acoustic pulses into the airway and lungs over a low-pressure airstream. It is targeted to treat small obstructed airways by reducing the buildup of mucus.

The use of this technology was found to be effective in a series of laboratory experiments in airway and lungs.

“The combination of air pulsation and acoustic waves was shown to be effective in a series of lab test that simulated human airway and lungs,” Gutmark said. “In light of these studies, we are now in the process of further developing a device based on a unique clinical protocol that will offer treatment superior to existing solutions.”

BGU and Cincinnati Children’s established their long-term collaboration in 2012 to help address the lack of therapies and devices designed specifically for children. The goal was to bridge BGU’s technical and engineering expertise with the medical proficiency of Cincinnati Children’s doctors.

The collaboration’s overall aim is to help improve health outcomes for children by making sure that new devices are designed in a way that suits the children’s unique physiology and medical requirements.

“Our colleagues at Soroka and Cincinnati Children’s brought the medical knowledge and unmet need that was coupled with our technical and engineering capabilities, and together we developed this innovative solution in order to allow bronchiolitis, COPD and CF patients to breathe freely,” said Katoshevski of BGU.

To date, this collaboration has resulted in hundreds of projects that have been reviewed, out of which a few were selected to receive the first round of funding. The funding, given by BGU and Cincinnati Children’s, is dependent on completing project-specific developmental milestones.

“This is another example of a potentially effective therapeutic device that emerged from our fruitful research collaboration with Cincinnati Children,” said Netta Cohen, CEO of BGN Technologies.

“We are advancing the development of this technology that is applicable for a wide range of indications, while seeking a strategic partner for further development and commercialization of this breakthrough invention,” Cohen added.

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