Preterm neonates suffering from respiratory distress syndrome require assistive support in the form of mechanical ventilation or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, which may lead to long-term complications or even death. Here, we describe a high performance artificial placenta type microfluidic oxygenator, termed as a double-sided single oxygenator unit (dsSOU), which combines microwire stainless-steel mesh reinforced gas permeable membranes on both sides of a microchannel network, thereby significantly reducing the diffusional resistance to oxygen uptake as compared to the previous single-sided oxygenator designs. The new oxygenator is designed to be operated in a pumpless manner, perfused solely due to the arterio-venous pressure difference in a neonate and oxygenate blood through exposure directly to ambient atmosphere without any air or oxygen pumping. The best performing dsSOUs showed up to ∼343% improvement in oxygen transfer compared to a single-sided SOU (ssSOU) with the same height. Later, the dsSOUs were optimized and integrated to build a lung assist device (LAD) that could support the oxygenation needs for a 1–2 kg neonate under clinically relevant conditions for the artificial placenta, namely, flow rates ranging from 10 to 60 ml/min and a pressure drop of 10–60 mmHg. The LAD provided an oxygen uptake of 0.78–2.86 ml/min, which corresponded to the increase in oxygen saturation from 57 ± 1% to 93%–100%, under pure oxygen environment. This microfluidic lung assist device combines elegant design with new microfabrication methods to develop a pumpless, microfluidic blood oxygenator that is capable of supporting 30% of the oxygen needs of a pre-term neonate.

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