A team at Boston Children’s Hospital have invented a micro-particle that can be injected into your bloodstream to oxygenate your blood – without any help being required from your lungs.
The particles are able to keep a patient alive for up to 30 minutes after respiratory failure – which is normally enough time to prevent a heart attack or brain damage due to oxygen deprivation.
Each particle contains three to four times more oxygen than each of our own red blood cells. The oxygen is stored with a cell membrane made of fat. The membrane can be made of other materials but one issue in the past was that the particles became lodged in the body’s capillaries. These fat membranes however, are much more flexible and prevent this problem from happening.
Dr. John Kheir first began looking at ways to oxygenate the blood without breathing due to a tragic experience with one of his patients, a young girl. She was suffering from pneumonia and at one point her lungs started to fill with blood. It took 25 minutes to remove the blood from her lungs, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough time to prevent a cardiac arrest, leaving the girl in a serious condition which eventually lead to her death.
Potential uses for the new technology include medical, military and private. Military uses could include covert teams being able to stay submerged for 30 minutes at a time without having to come up for air. Private sector could include rescue teams being better protected, or an oil rig crew being able to fix underwater damage without the need for scuba equipment.