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article imageScientists develop critical life-saving oxygen injections

By Elizabeth Batt     Jul 2, 2012 in Health
Boston - A team of scientists at Boston Children's Hospital have developed an injectable foam suspension containing oxygen-filled microparticles. These IV shots, could save lives in an emergency situation.
It may sound like something you might find in a sci-fi novel, but it has the potential to save lives. A shot of oxygen that could keep people alive, even when they're not breathing. The intravenous injection, developed by Dr. John Kheir and a team from the department of cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital, rapidly reoxygenates the blood in a life-threatening emergency.
The shot, given directly into a vein, contains a suspension of microparticles that consist of a single layer of lipids (fatty molecules) surrounding a tiny pocket of oxygen gas. And it could play a crucial role for improving survival rates for those patients who suffer with acute lung failure or an obstructed airway and are unable to breathe.
Kheir's study, published in the June 27 issue of Science Translational Medicine, reported that when the suspension was mixed with human blood [outside of the body], "oxygen transfer from 70 volume % microparticles was complete within 4 s."
"Some of the most convincing experiments were the early ones," Kheir said in a press release at EurekaAlert, "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."
In animals with low blood oxygen levels, the infusion of microparticles restored blood oxygen saturation to near-normal levels within seconds. Even when the trachea was completely blocked, the scientists noted, the animals stayed alive "for 15 minutes without a single breath" and it "reduced the incidence of cardiac arrest and organ injury."
Kheir told, that he developed the microparticles after a tragic incident with one of his patients in 2006. "I was taking care of a cute redhead girl in ICU who had severe pneumonia,” Kheir said, when she suffered pulmonary hemorrhage. Without a breathing tube in place he added, "her lungs filled up with blood and she went into cardiac arrest."
Typically in situations such as this, attempts to keep a patient's blood oxygenated are intensive and invasive. In the girl's case Kheir said, it required surgery to place her on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine). ECMO provides both cardiac and respiratory support oxygen by removing blood from the body, and exposing it to oxygen before putting it back into the body.
Kheir told that the solutions were also portable, meaning that they could stabilize patients in a variety of emergency situations, buying them time for other life-saving treatments.
Kheir said that it took several years "to get the mix just right" and required the expertise of chemical engineers, particle scientists and medical doctors. Eventually, the doctor added, these syringes could be "on every code cart in a hospital, ambulance or transport helicopter to help stabilize patients who are having difficulty breathing."
The syringes are however, only designed for brief interventions. "The microparticles would likely only be administered for ... between 15 and 30 minutes," Kheir said, adding that the fluid they are carried in "would overload the blood if used for longer periods."
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