The title of this article may have you thinking there is some little twist or trick just to catch your attention and make you read on, but this is actually a true statement. A group of researchers led by Dr. John Kheir, from the Department of Cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital, developed microparticles that quickly oxygenate the bloodstream and allow a person to stay alive for 15 to 30 minutes without drawing a breath.
The concept of keeping a patient alive without breathing is not that new, however other attempts at this almost miraculous medicine have all but failed. The sheer determination to succeed in this endeavor came in 2006, when Dr. Kheir lost young patient after her lungs hemorrhaged during a case of pneumonia. That hemorrhaging led to brain damage and eventually death soon after because the good doctor couldn’t was unable to keep her alive long enough to give her a heart-lung machine. He knew that if he could have provided oxygen to the little girl’s blood while the lungs could not, he would have saved her; so he gathered the brightest minds he could find in particle technology and chemical engineering to do something no one has ever done before.
The two main ingredients for this “magic potion” is, of course, oxygen gas and fat. The fatty lipid layer stores energy and serves as a membrane around its precious cargo. These two to four micrometer marvels carry up to four times the amount of oxygen contained in human blood cell and can be carried in a tube for individual paramedics to carry around.
While this project will save countless lives in the emergency room and operating table, the real possibilities arrise when considering what it would be like to receive a shot of the microparticles and then go snorkeling for 15 to 30 minutes without the snorkel. What would you do with this now-realistic, yet temporary, superpower?
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