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Explorations in Science and Technology

Artificial Organs, Real Healing


By combining medicine with engineering, Pitt scientists and physicians are creating breakthrough devices, including an artificial lung that allows patients’ own lungs to rest during recovery.

The device, which enables gas exchange in a sort of “respiratory dialysis,” is among a myriad resulting from collaboration between Pitt’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the John Swanson School of Engineering.

It was developed in part by Pitt professor Brack Hattler, who was co-director of Pitt’s Medical Devices Laboratory when he wasn’t climbing Mount Everest and Mount Kilimangaro, or biking 3,300 miles across the country to raise funds for the American Lung Association. Professor William Federspiel continues the research, making artificial lungs more efficient and biodegradable.

Professor William Wagner—interim director of the McGowan Institute—leads a team focused on developing technologies that can address cardiovascular disease, including new biodegradable materials similar enough to cardiovascular tissue as to replace it. In addition, Wagner collaborates with professor Flordeliza Villanueva in Pitt’s Cardiovascular institute to develop agents for targeted vascular imaging.