Medical Breakthrough Continues Journey of Development
Back in 2012, Chemical engineers working alongside doctors and particle scientists announced they had created a microparticle that can be injected into a person’s bloodstream to quickly oxygenate the blood. It could be a lifesaver in critical medical conditions where a person’s airways is restricted or breathing impaired, reducing risk of heart-attack or permanent brain injury.
Led by Dr. John Kheir of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Boston, the original vision was to create an oxygen-delivering syringe loaded with microparticles of oxygen gas and liquid, for patients unable to breathe.
“This is a short-term oxygen substitute — a way to safely inject oxygen gas to support patients during a critical few minutes,” Dr. Kheir talked about the development 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.”
The team spent years experimenting to find the right concentration of oxygen and size to make it safe to inject. Early tests caused gas embolism as the gas molecules clogged up narrow capillaries. Their microparticles are composed of oxygen gas and fat lipids blended together with sound waves using a sonicator.
Having a syringed packed with such a payload creates a window of opportunity for any situation where oxygen is required for life functions but unavailable. Where the technology goes next leads to some interesting scenarios. Breathing underwater? Maybe. One day. But you need more than oxygen to breathe underwater, you have to manage the need for an inert gas to balance pressure whilst keeping oxygen levels at a bearable level. There could be some commercial and military applications, with deep sea exploration, salvage and drilling companies possibly being able to develop extended dive-time technology, and covert ops likely considering ways to insert assets via routes where security is weak or absent – or just keep it as is and use the syringe to give a human being a chance to live.
Meanwhile in 2014 Professor Christine McKenzie and a colleague at the University of Southern Denmark announced they had developed a new crystal based on cobalt that can absorb – or steal – oxygen from the air and store it. What happens with the crystal next could be worth watching.
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Get yourself a good book to read