A team of researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have invented a liquid solution containing tiny, gas-filled micro-particles that can be injected directly into the bloodstream to quickly oxygenate the blood. In what is one of the most significant medical breakthroughs in recent years, the liquid substance allows patients who can no longer breathe to live even when faced with major respiratory failure that would otherwise severely compromise their life.

In life-critical situations, such as those where a patient’s trachea is compromised and they are struggling to breathe, a severe drop of oxygen in the blood can result in permanent brain injuries, increase the risk of cardiac arrest, and obviously result in death. The micro-particle substance that the research team has developed is said to carry “three to four time the oxygen content of our own red blood cells” and could help restore enough oxygen in the bloodstream to keep patients alive for a further 15 to 30 minutes. Such a length of time could prove invaluable, granting medical teams and emergency personnel even more crucial time to save the patient.

Though similar such substances have failed in the past, causing gas embolism (the presence of gas bubbles in the bloodstream, obstructing circulation), the Boston Children’s Hospital’ invention uses ‘deformable particles’ rather than bubbles to combat the problem. John Kheir, MD at the Department of Cardiology at the hospital describes; “We have engineered around [the] 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 [otherwise] get stuck.”

The micro-particles, consisting of a single layer of lipids (fatty molecules) that surround a tiny pocket of oxygen gas, are delivered in a liquid solution. The team has so far experimented only on animals, though with hugely positive results, reporting that the substance was successful in restoring blood-oxygen saturation to near-normal levels for animals with low blood oxygen levels. Another experiment which saw Kheir and his team fill test tubes with their own blood and mix these with the micro-particles. Before their very eyes, the blue-ish de-oxygenated blood turn red.

"This is a short-term oxygen substitute -- a way to safely inject oxygen gas to support patients during a critical few minutes," Kheir says. "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."

Richard Birkett

Source: Science Daily

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