Masi: PUCP and four private companies create emergency mechanical respirator against coronavirus
This prototype has three ventilation modes and was designed based on the experience of Peruvian doctors who fight against COVID-19.
After four weeks of hard work, the team of engineers working in the Electronic Projects Laboratory of our university is completing the implementation of Masi, an emergency mechanical respirator that will be crucial to save lives if our health system is saturated by serious cases of coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Once the final tests of the development stage are completed, it will be the turn for the validation stage, in which the respirator is connected to calibrators for a long time to verify that it is working properly,” says Dr. Benjamín Castañeda, director of PUCP Center of Research in Medical Engineering and coordinator of our specialty in Biomedical Engineering. “After that, we are proposing to do preclinical and clinical studies that guarantee its operation and, if all goes well, we will start mass production in the first week of May. Our goal is to manufacture ten units a day, “he says.
In Quechua, the word masi refers to “a close friend or companion who provides support.” “In this case, Masi will help people breathe,” says Castañeda.
Faced with the health emergency represented by the coronavirus (COVID-19), a group of professionals decided to face this challenge by combining their engineering knowledge with experience and innovation in the design and manufacture of electronic equipment. Thus, the joint work began between PUCP, BREIN (the innovation hub of the Breca Group), Diacsa, Zolid Design and Energy Automation Technologies, which is carried out with the financial support of our university, the Breca Group, the National Mining Society, Energy and Petroleum and ISA-REP. The clinical validation process is possible thanks to the support of AUNA.
From the beginning, the team identified these mechanical emergency fans as the key project to focus on, given the high cost of high-end equipment, which can reach $ 50,000, and its scarcity in Peru.
The interdisciplinary composition of the group also reflects the complexity of the task they face. It is made up of industrial designers Augusto Acosta and Luigi Giampietri; the electronic engineers Jorge Benavides, Javier Chang, Jordi Cook, José Osada, Johan Polack, Jaime Reátegui, Christiam Rojas and José Alcántara; the toxicologist Fanny Casado; the biomedical engineers Benjamín Castañeda and Sandra Pérez; the audiovisual communicator David Delgado; the psychologist Álvaro Delgado-Aparicio; the industrial engineer Allejandro Egúsquiza; the bioethicist lawyer Gisela Fernández; the computer engineer Néstor Gallo; the student of Computer Sciences Marcelo Peña; and the mechanical engineer Carlos Romero.
“Masi is thought from the perspective of the intensivist doctor, who should not feel that he is operating something other than a traditional mechanical respirator”, says Mag. Jaime Reátegui, senior specialist in technological innovation at BREIN. As a PUCP electronic engineer and a graduate of our master’s degree in Signal Processing and Digital Images, he knows well the classrooms and laboratories where he works today in order to achieve that these respirators meet different clinical requirements.
“The touch screen allows you to select between three different ventilation modes: volume-control, pressure-control and pressure-support,” he lists. “The first one is usually used when a patient arrives to ICU and the physician does not necessarily know the details of his/her characteristics, such as lung resistance and oxygen saturation. Depending on the weight of the person, the doctor decides what volume of air he/she will need and wants the fan to deliver. If the patient’s health deteriorates, the doctor would opt for the second mode, in which a fixed pressure is defined and the volume of air that circulates depends on the lung’s capacity. With these two modes, you can work with COVID-19 patients without problems,” he explains.
Finally, the pressure-support mode is used when the patient begins to recover but still cannot breathe on his/her own and needs assistance, even when the person is in control of breathing again.
As coordinator of our specialty in Biomedical Engineering, Castañeda knew that it was crucial to work collaboratively with the doctors themselves who attend real cases of COVID-19 in Peru. In this sense, one of the first actions of the team was to interview intensive care doctors at the Dos de Mayo Hospital, the San Pablo Clinic and the International Clinic to add that information to the one provided by the WHO.
“Unlike other initiatives, we began the design by asking exactly what it is that the treatment of this disease requires,” says Eng. Jorge Benavides, graduate, PUCP Electronic Engineering professor and manager of Energy Automation Technologies. It is not just a matter of pumping a certain amount of air, but the respirator must include various sensors capable of providing precise feedback on your electronic control scheme.
Biomedicine and clinical validation
Castañeda also highlights the importance of the biomedical perspective in this project. He himself guides the coordination with the Ministry of Health (Minsa), but also professors Dr. Sandra Pérez and Dr. Fanny Casado lead the laboratory and preclinical validations, respectively, and work hand in hand with Dr. Gisela Fernández, lawyer specialist in bioethics. Their work is carried out in parallel and is just as important, because, without the validation protocol for emergency medical equipment, respirators could not be used in COVID-19 patients.
“Over the past 20 years, we have created a variety of medical devices that unfortunately only remained in prototypes. We didn’t have a validated way by Minsa that could give them the corresponding health certification. Now, due to this crisis, we have had to create a very quick procedure to give it, ” says Castañeda.
In the coming week, the team will start with initial validation tests and will build more prototypes of the respirator.