Prof. Josué Sznitman and his team from the Israeli Technion have developed an innovative technology that could help save the lives of severe COVID-19 patients suffering from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
These patients undergo assisted ventilation and oxygenation, oftentimes under intubation, in intensive care units (ICUs). ARDS is recognized as the leading cause of mortality in COVID-19 patients. To date, there is no existing therapy to treat ARDS patients.
The novel innovative patent-pending technology for pulmonary treatment ARDS dramatically improves the efficacy of existing drugs for treating those patients. Due to the global crisis, its development is being fast-tracked.
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The team of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the Technion is in a race to launch clinical trials within a few months.
damage to pulmonary surfactant (the liquid that coats the surface of alveoli in the lungs) is one of the hallmarks of ARDS.
The most important role of the surfactant is to reduce the forces required for breathing. “While research is ongoing in understanding the SARS-COV-2 virus, it was recently shown that the virus kills the epithelial cells that secrete surfactant inside alveoli, after binding to a receptor (called ACE2) on the cell’s surface.” the statement said. “Sznitman’s team hypothesizes that surfactant depletion may be particularly severe in COVID-19 related ARDS.”
The invention of Liquid Foam Therapy (LIFT), by Dr. Yan Ostrovski and Prof. Sznitman, dramatically improve the distribution of surfactant across the lungs. “More generally,” according to the statement, ‘LIFT is a radical new method for pulmonary drug delivery with the potential of delivering therapeutics homogeneously into the lungs and, importantly in large doses. This is accomplished by loading the drug within the foam, or alternatively foaming the drug directly when possible. In both cases, and unlike liquids, the foam defies gravity and prevents the formation of pools.”
The team examined the safety and efficacy of employing LIFT with foamed surfactant in a severe ARDS model induced in rats. The rats recovered a healthy state within 15-30 minutes, with no adverse events.
But rat lungs are too small to demonstrate improved distribution that is critically sought in adult lungs. The researchers used ex vivo experiments in adult-sized porcine lungs to show how LIFT spreads homogenously compared with liquid administration.
Their findings to be soon submitted for scientific publication and subject to rigorous peer-review
Following these encouraging results, the team is now in a race to construct a fully functional delivery device and move to a preclinical study in severe ARDS models in pigs.
If successful, the researchers will pursue the first clinical trials of the therapy, in an effort to critically accelerate the development of a treatment for the most severe COVID-19 patients with ARDS. The LIFT technology will be licensed to the newly founded start-up company, Neshima Medical, led by Dr. Ostrovski and supported by the Technion’s Business Development Unit T3.