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Dr. Yu Feng of the School of Chemical Engineering at Oklahoma State University has received funding from the University of Oklahoma Foundation for his project titled “Artificial Intelligence (AI) Empowered User-Centered Smart Inhaler for Targeted Drug Delivery to Small Airways for Effective Lung Disease Treatment.”

Lung disease treatment changing with AI inhaler

Monday, April 1, 2024

Media Contact: Desa James | Communications Coordinator | 405-744-2669 |

Dr. Yu Feng of the Oklahoma State University School of Chemical Engineering has received funding from the University of Oklahoma Foundation for his project titled “Artificial Intelligence (AI) Empowered User-Centered Smart Inhaler for Targeted Drug Delivery to Small Airways for Effective Lung Disease Treatment.” 

The project aims to develop a groundbreaking smart inhaler that uses artificial intelligence. This technology has the ability to change the way lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, will be treated. By using computational fluid-particle dynamics and machine learning/deep learning (ML/DL), the inhaler calculates the exact amount of medication needed and can deliver it to the small airways that it is needed most.  

“The ML algorithm processes inputs like breathing profiles, disease status and drug particle sizes to determine the optimal nozzle settings for drug release. These settings are then used by the inhaler's hardware system to adjust the nozzle, ensuring targeted drug delivery to specific lung sites while minimizing deposition on healthy tissues,” Feng said. 

Overall workflow of developing and deploying the prototype of AI-empowered user-centered smart inhaler for targeted drug delivery

Personalized and efficient treatment for everyone is the idea. The AI-empowered Smart Inhaler aims to make lung disease treatment more accurate and accessible. Feng notes that the impact on people in rural and underserved areas who don’t have regular access to doctors would be profound.  

“It's about bringing state-of-the-art technology to everyday health care, making a real difference in people's lives,” Feng said. 

OSU doctoral student Mohammad Rashed Islam has a prominent role in developing the AI algorithm for the smart inhaler.  

“The algorithm will use patient-specific data and medication-specific properties, as its input,” Feng said. “Islam’s research focuses on using AI for precise drug delivery directly to affected areas of the lungs, for multiple lung diseases beyond COPD only.”   

Feng states that Islam’s research is pivotal to the project. 

“It establishes a targeted delivery strategy for inhalation therapy using our AI-empowered smart inhaler,” Feng said. “The algorithm not only ensures more efficient delivery to the targeted areas, but also minimizes potential side effects, a significant advancement over traditional inhalation therapies.” 

Further developments are planned for the inhaler. The team plans to take into account elements like disease-specific airway motion. They also plan to advance the algorithm with a broader range of particle-particle interaction mechanisms that can possibly influence medication transport and deposition in pulmonary airways, the process by which aerosol particles coagulate or break up with each other, changing the size distributions of the suspending particles and their trajectories in human respiratory systems.      

“This approach will help tailor our smart inhaler to be even more effective across diverse patient profiles, enhancing its precision and reliability in real-world clinical scenarios,” Feng said. 

The potential transformation to pulmonary health care can be seen by the concepts demonstrated with this project. 

Feng joined the School of Chemical Engineering in 2016. In addition to research, he has diligently worked to enhance STEM education and outreach in the field of silico pulmonary health care and precise lung disease treatment since then. 

Feng has hosted sessions for OSU Grandparent University that use augmented reality and simulations to educate K-12 students about lung health. In addition, Feng has conducted design sessions for other STEM outreach opportunities like CEAT’s Summer Bridge program, CEAT Discovery and Oklahoma Technoloy Student Association Conferences that all aim to foster interest in biomedical engineering and have applications towards innovation in pulmonary health care. 

In the classroom, Feng has been recognized for integrating his expertise in computational engineering into several of his courses. His course CHE4773/5773: Computational Fluid-Particle Dynamics: Basic Theory and Selected Biomedical Applications received the Ansys Curriculum Award for empowering his students with the ability to learn in an interactive visualization that bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world applications.  

His impact reaches beyond OSU as well. Feng has spoken at various public forums to promote STEM and the public understanding of pulmonary health care while also having his research featured as a cover article in the magazine “Ansys Advantage.” 

Find out more about Feng’s research here 

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