TEAL Respirator in Development as Reusable, Sterilizable N95 PPE

Could the New TEAL Respirator be the Boon We Need to End the PPE Crisis?

A new level of PPE is on the horizon with the development of a revolutionary N95 reusable mask known as the TEAL (Transparent, Elastomeric, Adaptable, Long-Lasting) respirator. The respirator, being developed and commercialized by Teal Bio, couldn’t come at a better time, either. 

Recent surveys show that the PPE crisis continues at many hospitals across the country, forcing healthcare workers to reuse disposable PPE. The result is variable, inadequate droplet protection for wearers. 

Professionals without proper PPE acquire infections – including COVID-19 – at greater rates than those who have adequate PPE. The unfortunate chain of events continues as infected workers bring illness home to family members and the available healthcare workforce decreases. This results in increased mortality and morbidity not only of healthcare providers, but also of their families and facility inpatients.

Will this new PPE be the answer healthcare professionals so desperately need? Can the TEAL respirator perform as a sustainable solution to the dwindling supply of disposable N95 masks?

Testing says it very well could.

Hope in the Promise of a Good Fit

Elastomeric half-mask respirators like the TEAL respirator have proven to be an appropriate alternative to disposable N95 FFRs (filtering facepiece respirators). Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital along with MIT designed the initial concept for the masks, making sure they could be used many times and easily sterilized. 

Although the TEAL respirator was based on the shape of the 3M 1860 style of N95 masks, it does not use 3M’s design. Developed at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, this technology has been spun out into the startup company Teal Bio, which continues to innovate even more comfortable and effective designs for the new PPE.

ACS Publications reports that the TEAL respirator has been successfully fit-tested by healthcare workers at two major hospitals (Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital). It can be decontaminated using a variety of simple methods that are widely available. The respirator is also transparent, allowing those who rely on lip-reading to better communicate during wear. 

Figure 2. Teal Bio’s TEAL (transparent, elastomeric, adaptable, long-lasting) respirator

Revolutionary biometric feedback sensors were incorporated into the TEAL respirator; the sensors’ ability to confirm proper fit and provide additional information about the wearer’s physiologic state will be included in future studies. 

TEAL Respirator Materials and Fabrication

The materials and fabrication of Teal Bio’s respirator are state-of-the-art; the PPE was designed using computer-aided design (CAD) software. The material is liquid silicone rubber, made by Protolabs using the CAD design by injection molding. 

The nasal bridge is lightweight aluminum, and elastic straps secure the respirator to the face. Dual circular filters measuring in 4.7 cm in diameter are featured, directly cut from 8210Plus N95 FFRs. Filter cartridges are made from laser-cut polystyrene support structures.

The TEAL respirator is also based on the iMASC system, which has been shown to “successfully fit multiple different face sizes and shapes using an OSHA-approved testing method” following a study involving healthcare professionals.

Wearing the TEAL Respirator: What Do Healthcare Professionals Think?

PPE must successfully carry out the purpose for which it is designed: to protect. However, it hardly matters how effective that protection is if PPE cannot be worn comfortably without detriment to the user.

For this reason, the iMASC system was tested for wearability first, before determining usability in healthcare settings. A multi-institutional trial also evaluated the TEAL respirator, focusing on a qualitative fit test with user experience. 

Forty participants took part in the study, and 100% of them were successfully fitted for the TEAL respirator after 3D geometry data of their faces were obtained. 

The professionals – all of whom had already been successfully fitted for traditional N95 masks – weighed in on their thoughts about the TEAL respirator. Here’s what they had to say:

  • The Fit

Every participant passed the fit test and was also able to replace the filter, resulting in a 100% success rate in these categories. Twenty-seven of the participants rated the fit of the TEAL respirator as “excellent”, nine of them said the fit was “good”, and four participants gave the fit a “fair” rating. 

  • Breathability

Once again, the TEAL respirator was a success: Fifteen participants rated breathability as “excellent”, sixteen of them said that it was “good”, seven determined breathability was “fair”, and only four said it was “poor”. 

  • Filter Replacement

With 100% of participants being able to successfully replace the dual filter on the TEAL respirator, the opinions among them concerning the process are as follows: Twenty-six subjects said it was “excellent”, twelve reported filter replacement as “good”, one of them decided it was “fair”, and just one rated the replacement experience as “poor”.

Figure 3. TEAL respirator fit tested in multi-institutional setting. (A) TEAL system on a mannequin and (B) front and side image of N95 filter cartridges. (C) User experience among 40 participants on a Likert scale including evaluation of fit, breathability, and filter exchange and (D) preference between the TEAL respirator and a standard hospital FFR. source: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsptsci.0c00157

Preferences of Healthcare Worker Study Participants

Those who participated in the trial were physicians, nurses, residents, and technicians at the two hospitals previously mentioned. Participants were asked for their preference between the TEAL respirator and the standard hospital supplied FFRs. Twenty-four participants said they prefer the TEAL respirator, two preferred the standard FFR, and fourteen subjects had no preference.

Facemask Innovation at Its Best

The benefits the TEAL respirator brings to the table extend well beyond the security, comfort, and protection they provide – the masks were designed to be environmentally responsible, as well.

Figure 4: Jason Troutner, President and Co-Founder of Teal Bio, demonstrates the latest TEAL respirator model.

Jason Troutner, President and Co-Founder of Teal Bio explains, “Teal Bio was created around the idea that we can provide more reliable protection to healthcare workers while also reducing waste sent to landfills.” Not only does the TEAL respirator reduce landfill waste by being reusable, but it also does so by using less filter media than standard-issue N95 FFRs.

As the supply of traditional N95 FFRs decreases, healthcare workers have no choice but to find alternative ways to protect themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic – and these alternative ways too often result in sub-par protection. The TEAL respirator brings more than just a new type of PPE to healthcare – it brings new hope to us all.

About Teal Bio

The new TEAL respirator was created to make sure the research done at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital will reach healthcare workers. The members of the founding team have started many medical technology companies in the past, including Lyndra Therapeutics (Bob Langer and Giovanni Traverso), Cast21 (Jason Troutner), and Moderna (Bob Langer). 

While Teal Bio raised a seed round of $575,000 in December of 2020, its team includes experienced medical device engineers, physicians, and entrepreneurs, among many additional distinguished professionals. Work on the TEAL respirator at Teal Bio is ongoing. 

To learn more about the new TEAL respirator and be among the first to be informed of the latest developments and innovations, visit the Teal Bio website.

Like us on Facebook and join the Scrubs Family