Sunday, January 24, 2010

Humans Breathing Water? Probably Not - Oxygenated Fluorocarbon Liquid, Yes

Disclaimer: This is one of those 'geeky' posts. Non-geeks reading this post may exhibit glazed eyes, excessive levels of boredom, or induced temporary somnolence.
"The Feasibility of Liquid Breathing in Man."
Kylstra, JA, Duke University Medical Center, Durham North Carolina (1977)

"...Normothermic anesthetized dogs ventilated with oxygenated FC-80 fluorocarbon liquid can be maintained at a normal PaCO2 for 1 hr. The use of an emulsion of 1% (by volume) of 2 M NaOH in FC-80 fluorocarbon liquid should permit a liquid breathing diver to perform work requiring a V(O2) of approximately 1 1 STPD/min while maintaining a normal PaCO2. Microscopic examination of the lungs of dogs and rats that had breathed oxygenated FC-80 fluorocarbon liquid or an emulsion of 1% (by volume) of 2 M NaOH in FC-80 fluorocarbon liquid revealed the transient presence of increased numbers of mononuclear cells but no other pathologic changes...."

That was a third of a century ago.

I'd love to write about suppressed research and cloaked projects: but as usual, reality is a bit less dramatic. Sort of.

Laboratory demonstrations that mammals could breath liquids - and get oxygen that way - made quite a splash in the seventies. One of the drawbacks mentioned back then was how difficult it is to force a fluid in and out of mammalian lungs: we're designed around getting oxygen from this nitrogen-oxygen gas mixture we live in.

Which is why SCUBA divers breath pressurized gas, not water. One of the reasons.

That 1977 research wasn't a dead-end, though:

"Liquid breathing:Medical applications" (December 22, 2009)

"The most promising area for the use of liquid ventilation is in the field of pediatric medicine. The first medical use of liquid breathing was treatment of premature babies and adults with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in the 1990s. Liquid breathing was used in clinical trials after the development by Alliance Pharmaceuticals of the fluorochemical perfluorooctyl bromide, or perflubron for short. Current methods of positive-pressure ventilation can contribute to the development of lung disease in pre-term neonates, leading to diseases such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Liquid ventilation removes many of the high pressure gradients responsible for this damage. Furthermore, Perfluorocarbons have been demonstrated to reduce lung inflammation, improve ventilation-perfusion mismatch and to provide a novel route for the pulmonary administration of drugs...."

That was posted about a month ago. I don't think we'll all be breathing fluorocarbons any time soon - or ever. But the odds are that it won't be all that long before ICUs will have a few tanks for patients whose lungs need conditions that an atmosphere can't provide.

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Anonymous said...

I wouldn't have found this site if it weren't for me looking into my rare and odd ability to breathe underwater for an extended amount of time. I don't know how I am able to do it but it comes naturally. Actually I never really breathe in the water itself. An air bubble forms around my mouth when I go under and allows me to breathe in the oxygen in the water molecules. It's strange, no doubt, but true. None of the sites I've been to have told me ANYTHING but myths from hundreds of years ago so I don't know what to call my ability. I am merely stating that, through years of my own experience, I know for a fact our ability to breathe underwater is already out there.

Anonymous said...

You're a mutant dude. You should contact Professor Xavier about joining the Xmen.

Anonymous said...

Pics, or it never happened.

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