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A breath of salty air for patients with cystic fibrosis

How surfers in Australia inspired the development a new device that taps the benefits of salt water mist to treat cystic fibrosis patients.

The innovative nebulizer turns salt water into deep-penetrating aerosol mist. Cambridge Consultants

In a seemingly random but nevertheless important discovery, scientists watching surfers with cystic fibrosis in Australia several years ago found that inhaling sea water mist reduced lung problems associated with the inherited disease.

So Cambridge Consultants in the U.K. paired with pharma firm Parion to develop and design a type of aerosol delivery systemt, called trans-nasal pulmonary aerosol delivery (tPAD), that brings the benefits of salt water treatment to the comfort of patients' homes, working overnight while they sleep.

The big deal about this device? Its long cannula that keeps droplets small enough to travel deep into the lungs.

"We immediately recognised the potential of this project to transform the lives of CF patients," said Matthew Allen, programme director at Cambridge Consultants, in a news release. "The challenge was to build an aerosol nebulizer system that could be comfortably used by patients overnight -- with the saline mist traveling down a long cannula to the sleeping patient without forming the large droplets that often occur in a standard nebuliser system. The size of the saline droplets is crucial to the success of the treatment as they need to be small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs."

Cystic fibrosis is a chronic disease affecting more than 70,000 people worldwide, and while there is no cure, inhaling a super salty solution -- twice as salty as water in the Atlantic Ocean -- can bring great relief by rehydrating the layer of unusually sticky mucus lining their lungs. The new nebulizer delivers the aerosol mist through the nose for eight hours and is safe and effective in children as well as adults.