'Injectable Oxygen' Lets You Live Without Breathing


A team of scientists at the Boston Children's Hospital designed an injectable microparticle that can carry and release oxygen into a person’s bloodstream over a short period of time.

Medical patients whose breathing has been restricted now stand a better chance of surviving, thanks to a new way of injecting oxygen directly into the blood.

A team of scientists at the Boston Children's Hospital designed an injectable microparticle that can carry and release oxygen into a person’s bloodstream over a short period of time.

Oxygen substitute

"This is a short-term oxygen substitute —a way to safely inject oxygen gas to support patients during a critical few minutes. Eventually, this could be stored in syringes on every code cart in a hospital, ambulance or transport helicopter to help stabilize patients who are having difficulty breathing," said

John Kheir, MD, of the Department of Cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The injectable oxygen will even work if the patient's ability to breathe was restricted or even cut off, the report added.

For medical personnel, it said this may mean buying enough time to avoid risking a heart attack or permanent brain injury when oxygen is restricted or cut off

Upon injection, the microparticles can oxygenate the blood to "near normal" levels.

How it's done

The microparticles are essentially microscopic capsules designed to release oxygen at a steady rate into the bloodstream. The particles, no more than 4µm in size, trap oxygen molecules —up to four times the usual amount found in normal blood— in a layer of soluble lipids.

Lipids, natural molecules that can store energy and act as a part of a cell membrane, can consist of materials such as wax, vitamins, or phospholipids. In this case, fat is the lipid that stores the oxygen.

Scientists corrected an issue involving gas embolism —a condition where gas molecules would become stuck trying to squeeze through the capillaries— by packing the oxygen into small deformable particles instead of rigid ones.

Potential uses

In medicine, the injectable oxygen can be used to buy time for patients who suffer from a restriction in breathing due to inflammation of the lungs or collapsed lungs.

In the military, Navy SEALs can stay underwater for more than 20 minutes without having to resurface for air - or allow soldiers without face masks to survive toxic gases.

The injectable oxygen can also be used in deep sea rescue or underwater welding.

2006 inspiration

Dr. Kheir got his inspiration to develop the drug in 2006, when he was treating a girl in the ICU who had a severe case of pneumonia.

The girl suffered from a pulmonary hemorrhage, with her lungs filling up with blood.

She went into cardiac arrest, and doctors needed 25 minutes to remove blood from her lungs so she could breathe again.

But by then, the girl’s brain had suffered severe injury due to oxygen deprivation, and she died.

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