A single intravenous injection of a lipid-based gas-filled solution brought 15 minutes worth of life-saving oxygen to rabbits with completely blocked airways.
An injected oxygen microparticle encounters a red blood cell deprived of this vital gas. (D. Kunkel/Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.; D. Bell/Harvard University; J. Kheir/Children's Hospital Boston; C. Porter/Chris Porter Illustration)
PROBLEM: Patients who can't breathe need oxygen quickly to avoid cardiac arrest and brain injury. Unfortunately, attempts in the early 1900s to intravenously supply this essential gas failed to oxygenate the blood and often caused dangerous air bubbles. Current treatments, such as blood substitutes, breathing masks, and tubes, aren't always effective as well since they still rely on the lungs to function or require time to properly administer.
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METHODOLOGY: Researchers led by Harvard Medical School's John N. Kheir engineered tiny, gas-filled microparticles, which were about three micrometers in size and invisible to the naked eye. They used a device called a sonicator, which uses high-intensity sound waves, to produce a foamy liquid solution with microparticles that consist of a single layer of lipids that trap a tiny pocket of oxygen gas. They then injected the resulting mixture directly into the bloodstream of rabbits that were severely oxygen-deprived.