Scientists Invent Particles That Will Let You Live Without Breathing

This may seem like something out of a science fiction movie: researchers have designed microparticles that can be injected directly into the bloodstream to quickly oxygenate your body, even if you can't breathe anymore. It's one of the best medical breakthroughs in recent years, and one that could save millions of lives every year.

The invention, developed by a team at Boston Children's Hospital, will allow medical teams to keep patients alive and well for 15- to 30-minute despite major respiratory failure. This is enough time for doctors and emergency personnel to act without risking a heart attack or permanent brain injuries in the patient.

The solution has already been successfully tested on animals under critical lung failure. When the doctors injected this liquid into the patient's veins, it restored oxygen in their blood to near-normal levels, granting them those precious additional minutes of life.

Particles of fat and oxygen

The particles are composed of oxygen gas pocketed in a layer of lipids, a natural molecule that usually stores energy or serves as a component to cell membranes. Lipids can be waxes, some vitamins, monoglycerides, diglycerides, triglycerides, phospholipids, or -- as in this case -- fats.

These fatty oxygen particles are about two to four micrometers in size. They are suspended in a liquid solution that can be easily carried and used by paramedics, emergency crews and intensive care personnel. This seemingly magic elixir carries "three to four times the oxygen content of our own red blood cells."

Similar solutions have failed in the past because they caused gas embolism, rather than oxygenating the cells. According to John Kheir, MD at the Department of Cardiology at Boston Children's Hospital, they solved the problem by using deformable particles, rather than bubbles:

We have engineered around this problem by packaging the gas into small, deformable particles. They dramatically increase the surface area for gas exchange and are able to squeeze through capillaries where free gas would get stuck.

Kheir had the idea of an injected oxygen solution started after he had to treat a little girl in 2006. Because of a lung hemorrhage caused by pneumonia, the girl sustained severe brain injuries which, ultimately, lead to her death before the medical team could place her in a heart-lung machine.

Soon after, Kheir assembled a team of chemical engineers, particle scientists, and medical doctors to work on this idea, which had promising results from the very beginning:

Some of the most convincing experiments were the early ones. We drew each other's blood, mixed it in a test tube with the microparticles, and watched blue blood turn immediately red, right before our eyes.

It sounds like magic, but it was just the start of what, after years of investigation, became this real life-giving liquid in a bottle.

This is what the future is about. And it's a beautiful one indeed, one that is arriving earlier than we ever could have expected. [ScienceDaily]

Image by Filip Fluxa/Shutterstock

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    Hmm, intravenous scuba......

      free divers to be tested for oxygen use.

    When will it reach and finish human trials?

    Is it detectable? I can see this being used by athletes!

      As it stands right now, this will more likely kill an athlete trying to "use" it..
      See my link below

    This would be great for athletes - just inject yourself for the big race.

    How does the body deal with the lipid oxygen transports after they've delivered their payload? Naturally being alive for an extra minute in an emergency is worth the potential damage of a bit of fat in the bloodstream, but I do wonder about just what happens to those particles.

    Nonetheless, this is great news. I was actually thinking that if the tech can be refined such that the particles can be filtered out and reused, we may have a direct-oxygenation system which we could use in extreme environments. Like space ^_^.

      Yeah, it's only for emergency situations in the very short term.
      It can only be administered a couple of times before the transporting medium itself becomes an issue.
      A better write up here.. (couldn't find where I first found it, but this is the same article in full

    The future is upon us sooner than we thought, now..........the words, lungs and ebay keep popping up in my head.

    Is this a legitimate website? it looks kinda dodgy.

    when you think about the amount of oxygen the liquid would need contain to oxygenate the blood for 15 minutes, it just doesn't sound right. our bodies and brains need to work at a pretty specific oxygen level, not too much, not too low. so you'd assume it has to be pretty precisely injected over a period or else you'd effectively hyperventilate, no? it's brilliant if it's true, but .........

      The science is real.
      The scientists involved in this probably know all about our oxygen level requirements wouldn't you say?
      Have a read through the article I linked to above. (that's just one place to find the info)
      It spells it all out for you.

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