Friday, July 19, 2024

$250 prototype a breath of fresh air for sleep apnoea sufferers

A $250 prototype to help with one of New Zealand’s most prominent respiratory illnesses has been developed by Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) researchers.

Sleep apnoea, often associated with snoring, is a dangerous health condition where a person will unknowingly stop and start breathing in their sleep. It can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and early death.

Impacting over 100,000 Kiwis, the current solution is a $1,500-2,500 wearable sleeping device strapped over a person’s mouth, providing them a continuous supply of oxygenated air; known as a CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.  

A fourth-year engineering project has produced a prototype CPAP with the capabilities of a top end CPAP device priced at $2500 for a tenth of the cost – $247 to be exact.  

“Our goal with this project is to help reduce health inequalities. The final part of our project is creating an open-source file alongside a phone app for Bluetooth control, allowing anyone to recreate and run the device from their phone,” says the research team. 

“We tested all our products against the current top of the line CPAP, which uses the very best hardware – which is what you would expect, but we wanted to see if much lower-cost products could produce the same or better results. 

“We stripped the machine back to the bare minimum, and found that we could achieve the same, and at times, better results. Current CPAP devices last around five years, ours is built with the same expectation.  

“Our hope is that a commercial business would mass-produce these, ideally reducing the cost to purchase the device to below $50-150.” 

The research team says it is motivated by the growing need for affordable healthcare alternatives.

“We want to give back to our communities and affordable healthcare is a local and global issue. With Māori and Pacific peoples twice as likely to have sleep apnoea a large percentage of our population is disproportionately impacted by the costs of healthcare.” 

The team is made up of fourth year Mechanical Engineering students Jordan Hill and Mia Uluilelata, and Mechatronics students, Samuel Jackson and Samrath Sood; they are supervised by Distinguished Professor Geoff Chase, and PhD students Ella Guy and Jaimey Clifton.

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