What If You Didn’t Need to Breathe Underwater?

January 28, 2016 | Elizabeth Knowles

Woman swimming underwater

Researchers propose an oxygen injection that could eliminate the need to breathe for up to 30 minutes.

I’m going to start this article by asking you to hold your breath for half an hour or so. Easy, right? Well, umm, no — not so much. As humans, we need to breathe pretty much all the time in order to provide our bodies with the oxygen they need to survive.

In a paper published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers describe a new microparticle filled with oxygen that could be injected into a person’s blood stream and eliminate their need to breathe for 30 minutes at a time.

The microcapsules are tiny bubbles of oxygen surrounded by a layer of lipids (fatty molecules) that are suspended in liquid so that they don’t grow and become deadly. When they enter the bloodstream, the capsules are capable of transferring about 70 percent of their oxygen to a person’s red blood cells.

SEE ALSO: Whales May Hold Missing Ingredient for Synthetic Blood

In a lab setting, scientists were able to keep rabbits alive for 15 minutes, even with blocked windpipes. Just imagine their versatility for humans. You could go scuba diving without a tank, lifeguards could save drowning swimmers, and paramedics could use them to keep a patient alive on the way to the hospital. The possibilities are endless!

“The microparticle solutions are portable and could stabilize patients in emergency situations, buying time for paramedics, emergency clinicians or intensive care clinicians to more safely place a breathing tube or perform other life-saving therapies,” John Kheir, MD, of the Department of Cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital, and one of the authors of the paper in a press release. ““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.”

Furthermore, you wouldn’t even need to be an expert to use such an injection. According to the paper, “they are portable and injectable into a vein without preparation or advanced medical training, making them ideal for broad use in emergency situations.”

Thinking about becoming a mermaid and living underwater forever? Don’t give up your land life just yet. Using this type of injection for a longer period of time could be dangerous, as the liquid in the injection would overload your blood.

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