When people stop breathing, they die. Quickly. But a team at Boston Children’s Hospital has developed an elixir, filled with microparticles that carry oxygen to a person’s cells, that could keep a person alive for up to half an hour, even if they’re not breathing.
The microparticle solution is different than blood substitutes, which do carry oxygen but need to be oxygenated by the lungs. These new microparticles consist of a single thin layer of lipids that encase a tiny bubble of oxygen gas. These particles are delivered to the bloodstream via injection in a liquid solution and can return a deoxygenated blood supply in vivo to near normal levels in a matter of seconds.
The lipids means the team could create particles with large surface areas for oxygen exchange, but small enough not to block capillaries. The solution of the microparticles can be carried around, so this life-saving innovation could become standard in ambulances and hospitals across the country.
More from Smithsonian.com: