Pleural is the first smart airway clearance device for mucus-related respiratory conditions that empower users to perform chest physiotherapy autonomously, providing them with immediate relief from breathlessness whilst reducing the risk of infection. Intelligent machine learning provides users with personalised therapy to clear their airways, and to clear up any uncertainty towards the progression of their lung condition.
Patient-centred Research and Design:
There are 3.9m people suffering from excess mucus in their lungs in the UK alone. Excessive mucus is a key symptom of many chronic lung conditions, causing debilitating breathlessness, life-threatening infections and increased exacerbations. Mucus build-up can lead to hospitalisations when unmanaged - patients survive only 3-4 hospitalisations on average.
There is little care available for most people with severe chronic mucus buildup. A select few are able to have physiotherapy to help dislodge and move mucus out of their lungs, but treatment is irregular, puts a strain on healthcare resources and requires travelling to a clinic.
Designing the device at Pleural was an exercise in human-centred design. Morning and evening routines are key moments for people living with excess mucus, so we knew we wanted to create something that felt at home on the bedside table. This meant creating a dock with an easy-to-read information display that provides therapy guidance as well as progress tracking of the lungs over time. We also created a body cushion that the device could be placed within so that users can treat hard-to-reach areas with maximum comfort.
Experimental Technology Innovation:
Pleural ventured into innovative technology, conducting iterative experiments across various disciplines. They explored diverse avenues, from DIY synthetic mucus to real sheep lung testing, vibrator mechanisms, and machine learning network structures. This process generated a multitude of ideas, which were synthesized into card sorting kits, capturing essential user insights and expert interview quotes. These resources directed Pleural towards fresh, human-centred solutions.
Inspired by user interviews, Pleural observed how patients naturally used massage guns to relieve chest pain. Building on this insight, we developed vibration and percussion mechanisms with a focus on safety, appropriate force, and speed. These mechanisms were complemented by a smart machine-learning system, enabling personalized and adaptive treatments.
We knew there was an opportunity to use more advanced technology to create a solution that is smarter and more effective than anything that’s on the market. We underwent a far-reaching experimental design process to explore many low-resolution concepts before deciding on a focused design for clearing excess mucus.
We saw machine learning as a powerful tool to explore and we figured out how to use it to build up a picture of mucus levels within the lungs. This allowed us to engineer a smart device that not only provides therapeutic relief but could deliver a guided, bespoke experience.
The device is designed to provide chest physiotherapy similar to that which would normally be performed by a clinician, with two modes in order to remove the mucus effectively: chest percussion and vibration.
Pleural's mission is to empower individuals with mucus-related respiratory conditions by developing a smart airway clearance device. This handheld device utilizes clinically proven techniques like external percussion and vibration for effective mucus removal. It provides personalized feedback through intelligent analysis of mucus levels, guiding users in performing comprehensive chest physiotherapy at home. Pleural aims to give users immediate relief from breathlessness, reduce infection risk, and enhance their ability to manage the progression of their lung condition.
Pleural joined multiple start-up programs and received strong support. As a finalist in the Mayor's Entrepreneur Competition 2023 health track, our aim is to enhance services for individuals with chronic respiratory conditions, benefiting our loved ones.