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More Star Trek Technology July 4, 2012

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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Patients unable to breathe because of acute lung failure or an obstructed airway need another way to get oxygen to their blood — and fast — to avoid cardiac arrest and brain injury. A team led by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital has designed tiny, gas-filled microparticles that can be injected directly into the bloodstream to quickly oxygenate the blood.  These microparticles are sonicated into a layer of lipids that surround a tiny pocket of oxygen gas, and are delivered in a liquid solution. In a cover article in the June 27 issue of Science Translational Medicine1, John Kheir, MD, of the Department of Cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues report that an infusion of these microparticles into animals with low blood oxygen levels restored blood oxygen saturation to near-normal levels, within seconds.

When the trachea was completely blocked — a more dangerous "real world" scenario — the infusion kept the animals alive for 15 minutes without a single breath, and reduced the incidence of cardiac arrest and organ injury.

I would like to remind you all that this had been dreamt up long ago by various science fiction writers, notably in the ground-breaking series Star Trek.  Dr. McCoy supposedly injects Kirk with a “triox compound” to even out the fight in “Amok Time”.  He pretended to anyway, saving Kirk from certain death and Spock from certain prison.

Despite my smugly pointing out the perfectly natural link between scifi and sci, I love the best part of this story, which is that Kheir began investigating the idea of injectable oxygen in 2006, after caring for a girl with a severe brain injury from pneumonia that caused bleeding into her lungs and concomitant low oxygen levels in her (remaining) blood. She died before they could put her on a heart-lung machine, the cutting-edge treatment of the day.

"Some of the most convincing experiments were the early ones," he says. "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."

Amazing story and a fabulous advance.  I’m looking forward to more cutting-edge science from this nearly fifty year-old show.

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1 John N. Kheir, Laurie A. Scharp, Mark A. Borden, Edward J. Swanson, Andrew Loxley, James H. Reese, Katherine J. Black, Luis A. Velazquez, Lindsay M. Thomson, Brian K. Walsh, Kathryn E. Mullen, Dionne A. Graham, Michael W. Lawlor, Carlo Brugnara, David C. Bell, and Francis X. McGowan, Jr. Oxygen Gas–Filled Microparticles Provide Intravenous Oxygen Delivery. Science Translational Medicine, 27 June 2012 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003679

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