An experimental device would give oxygen by IV

March 22, 2022 — The human body needs a lot of oxygen: about one cup per minute, just to stay alive.

If we can’t get the amount we need due to injury or illness, such as COVID-19, our bodies quickly begin to suffer from oxygen deprivation. After just a few minutes, abnormally low levels of oxygen in the blood can damage the brain and other organs, and even lead to death.

Doctors have machines such as ventilators that can help people who have trouble breathing get enough oxygen, but these have drawbacks and risks.

Now, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have developed a device that can inject oxygen directly into the bloodstream intravenously. They haven’t tested it on humans yet, but a new study describes testing on rats. If the researchers end up making it work for people, the approach could prevent severe oxygen loss and lung damage from ventilators, they say.

Although the technology is far from ready to be tested in humans, the test with the rats “is a great proof of concept,” says John Kheir, MD, physician in the Boston Children’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. Hospital which is leading the work on the new device.

Currently, patients who need help breathing get oxygen through a nasal cannula, ventilator or, in more severe cases, ECMO, a machine that draws blood from a person to pump out the dioxide. of carbon and oxygen before putting it back into their bodies.

Although all of these approaches save lives, ventilators can injure the lungs if used for a long time, and ECMO poses a high risk of infection. If doctors could inject oxygen directly into a patient’s blood intravenously, it could potentially reduce the need for other ways to deliver oxygen or make them safer.

In the future, Kheir and his team hope this technology could be a way to give patients just enough oxygen to keep them alive. “It gives patients more time and makes them more stable to move on to ECMO,” he says, which can take 15 minutes at the best hospitals to over an hour at others.

How It Works: Oxygen Emulsion

To prepare the oxygen for injection into the bloodstream, the researchers put it through the device with a liquid containing phospholipids, a type of fat found in cell membranes.

Gas and fluid move through nozzles of decreasing size to create tiny oxygen nano-bubbles with a coating of phospholipids – all smaller than a single red blood cell. The new emulsion, a liquid full of tiny bubbles, is then injected into the bloodstream.

Phospholipid packaging and small bubble size are essential for safe oxygen delivery.

You can’t just inject oxygen directly into the bloodstream, as that will create an air bubble that could block a blood vessel, like what happens when divers bend over after coming to the surface too quickly afterwards. diving, says Peyman Benharash, MD, cardiac surgeon and director of the adult ECMO program at UCLA.

With this new nanotechnology approach, “balls of oxygen are trapped in the fat and slowly released to prevent bends from occurring,” he says.

How the new technology works “is very simple, so it could be scalable,” says Benharash.

Less than 5% of hospitals have ECMO machines, he says. Something easier to use, like this technology, could potentially bring lifesaving oxygen to more people in more remote places.

While the therapy is interesting, says Benharash, “it’s by no means ready for prime time or for use in patients.” Next, he says, he would like to see how the device works in larger animals for longer periods of time.

As researchers continue to work on their device, Kheir says, they need to scale it to deliver at least 10 times more oxygen and make it more reliable.

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