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Researchers Develop Life Saving Oxygen Particles

Researchers Develop Life Saving Oxygen Particles

New microparticles can deliver oxygen around the body even when you can’t breath…

In a miraculous feat of medical engineering, researchers have developed microparticles that can be injected into the blood stream to carry oxygen around the body, even in the event of acute lung failure. The new breakthrough could help save millions of lives a year.

The particles, invented by a team at Boston Children’s Hospital, allow patients to stay alive for 15-30 minutes in the event of respiratory failure. This provides enough time for doctors to act without risking a heart attack or permanent brain damage.

Successful trails on animals with critical lung failure have shown that when injected the particles were able to restore blood oxygen saturation to near-normal levels within seconds, and keep working for between 15-30 minutes.

The particles are composed of oxygen gas sealed in a layer of lipids (fatty acids). These fatty oxygen particles, which contain ‘three to four times the oxygen content of our own red blood cells’, are about two to four micrometers in size and come suspended a liquid solution that can be easily transported.

Oxygenating blood is technique that has been attempted numerous times since the early 1900’s, however earlier techniques used gas, which failed to oxygenate the blood and often led to gas embolisms.

particles replace blood in the event of lung failure

Human Blood Cells

Image Credit: NCI, 1982.

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.”

Although the new technique has been shown to be effective, it does have limitations. The particles can only provide 15 and 30 minutes because they are carried in fluid that would overload the blood if used for longer periods, Kheir says. Nevertheless, the short window of time would still be enough to save millions of lives every year.

The study was funded by three awards from the Technology Development Fund at Boston Children’s Hospital Boston and a U.S. Department of Defense Basic Research Award to Kheir, and was published in the June 27 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

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  1. Jesus Diaz: Scientists Invent Particles That Will Let You Live Without Breathing. Gizmodo, 06/27/2012.
  2. Injecting Life-Saving Oxygen Into a Vein. Science Daily, 06/27/2012.

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