What is the HPN?
A nebulizer is a device that takes liquid medicine and turns it into an aerosol to be inhaled deeply into the lungs. Most nebulizers require electricity of some kind and are often too expensive for the poor in rural areas. The Human Powered Nebulizer (HPN) is a low-cost, electricity-free alternative to commercial nebulizers. It is designed to bring gold-standard medical treatment to persons in resource poor communities around the globe.
The HPN is powered by pedals like a bicycle. The health care provider pedals while the patient receives the treatment. It takes little effort to run the HPN; the equivalent of riding about 8 miles per hour.
One application for the HPN is use in treating individuals with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma . The simplest application for COPD and asthma will be treatment with a bronchodilator like albuterol during episodes of breathing difficulty. Other applications could include nebulized delivery of live vaccines like the measles vaccine and enhanced TB diagnosis. In the long term, we hope to treat lower respiratory infections with the HPN.
Why is the HPN needed?
COPD currently ranks as the fifth leading killer in the world, just behind annual mortality from HIV/AIDS. One cause of COPD is cooking over wood fires, and so COPD disproportionately affects women. Every year, 2.4 million children die from preventable diseases despite the availability of effective vaccines. And roughly 2 million people die from tuberculosis each year (see below).
What is being done this year?
Two research areas are being pursued this year. First in South Africa, the HPN is being compared to an electric nebulizer in a clinical study. The study compares sputum samples for TB diagnosis. Sputum samples are induced by inhaling nebulized hypertonic saline. The HPN would make TB diagnosis more widely available to persons who live in places lacking access to electricity.
A second research area focuses on questions of deployment. To be effectively deployed, the HPN will need to be integrated into diverse settings, settings offering different levels of healthcare infrastructure and presenting different cultural questions. Who best ought to oversee the HPN—patients’ family members, community health workers, or clinic-based nurses? How might cultural variations require modifications to HPN prototypes or implementation strategies? These questions are currently being investigated in healthcare communities in El Salvador.
Who is funding the HPN Project? This work is funded by the NCIIA and Marquette University.
Radio broadcast from WUWM's Lake Effect about HPN work in El Salvador:HPN Project competes in "March Madness for the Mind" competition
In conjunction with industry sponsors, research focuses on the design and prototype development of several implantable and external biomedical devices, such as multiple channel telemeters and wireless transcutaneous radio frequency powering systems for applications such as auditory prosthesis, artificial heart, nerve regeneration stimulator (Regenerative Electrical Stimulation), and for a variety of monitoring and powering needs in research. Complete system development from concept through realization of working prototypes is, therefore, available.