Medical science is progressing rapidly, making cure a possiblity even for those illnesses that once were deemed incurable. One such contribution has been made to this field by a team led by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital. Researchers here have managed to design tiny, gas-filled microparticles. These gas-filled microparticles are believed to become crucial in times when a patient finds it difficult to breathe because of an acute lung failure, or blocked airway and stands a risk of a cardiac arrest. It is during such situations that the microparticles can be injected directly to the bloodstream of the patient to facilitate immediate oxygenation of blood. Microparticles are a portable solution and are a “short-term oxygen substitute”, however their use during an emergency could prove highly beneficial, since this way the patient can be stabilized till the he/she gets a breathing tube. These microparticles comprise one layer of lipids (fatty molecules) that “surround a tiny pocket of oxygen gas, and are delivered in a liquid solution.”
Injecting life (Image credit: Getty Images)
Reportedly, in a cover article in the June 27 issue of Science Translational Medicine, John Kheir, MD, of the Department of Cardiology at Boston Children's Hospital, and colleagues revealed that when these microparticles were injected into animals with low blood oxygen levels, it brought back their blood oxygen saturation to near-normal levels in a matter of seconds. In fact, in instances wherein the trachea was completely blocked, injecting the microparticles “kept the animals alive for 15 minutes without a single breath, and reduced the incidence of cardiac arrest and organ injury.” Kheir, was quoted by this report as saying, “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.“
Interestingly, Kheir's own research of injectable oxygen was triggered by a personal experience, which frustrated him enough to prompt him to begin a research into finding an alternate way to deliver oxygen to a patient in need. It was in 2006 that Kheir began his research, “after caring for a little girl who sustained a severe brain injury resulting from a severe pneumonia that caused bleeding into her lungs and severely low oxygen levels. Despite the team's best efforts, she died before they could place her on a heart-lung machine.” The report quoted Kheir further, saying that his earliest experiments were some of the most convincing 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,” he revealed.
The report further adds that Kheir and his team have, as part of their research tested several concentrations and sizes of the microparticles to “optimize their effectiveness and to make them safe for injection.” “The effort was truly multidisciplinary,” added Kheir. He revealed that it took chemical engineers, particle scientists and medical doctors to get the desired result. Kheir added, “One of the keys to the success of the project was the ability to administer a concentrated amount of oxygen gas in a small amount of liquid. The suspension carries three to four times the oxygen content of our own red blood cells.“