Scientists May Have Found a Way to Inject Oxygen Into The Bloodstream Intravenously

COVID-19 is one of several disorders and injuries where the body fails to receive the proper quantity of oxygen into the lungs.

Patients are placed on a ventilator in extreme situations, but these devices are typically rare and can pose their own issues, including as infection and lung damage.

Scientists may have made a breakthrough that will have a major influence on how ventilators are used in the future.

In addition to typical mechanical ventilation, Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) is a procedure in which blood is transferred outside the body so that oxygen and carbon dioxide may be supplied and withdrawn.

Oxygen may now be delivered directly to the patient's blood, according to a novel discovery, and the patient's blood can stay where it is. Having this method available for a disease like refractory hypoxemia, which can be caused by being on a ventilator, could save lives.

"If successful, the described technology may help to avoid or decrease the incidence of ventilator-related lung injury from refractory hypoxemia," the researchers write in their new publication.

The new method works by passing an oxygen-rich liquid through a sequence of smaller and smaller nozzles. The bubbles are smaller than red blood cells by the end of the procedure, which means they may be injected straight into the bloodstream without obstructing blood arteries.
Before the bubbles are injected into the bloodstream, they are coated with a lipid barrier, which reduces toxicity and prevents the bubbles from clumping together. The membrane dissolves once the solution is injected, and oxygen is liberated.

Blood oxygen saturation levels may be raised from 15% to over 95% in just a few minutes in trials using donated human blood. The procedure was proven to raise saturation from 20% to 50% in live rats.

"Importantly, these devices allow us to control the dosage of oxygen delivered and the volume of fluid administered, both of which are critical parameters in the management of critically ill patients," the researchers add.

The researchers are quick to point out that this is only a "proof of concept" at this point, and that it has yet to be tested on humans. With the size of the bubbles and the coating utilized, they appear to have discovered a potentially viable recipe.

Getting oxygen into the body in this way is a delicate balancing act, since difficulties can arise rapidly if too much or too little is introduced, or if it is added incorrectly. Before going on to human trials, the researchers want to test their device on larger animals.

While the new gadget will not be able to totally replace ventilators or ECMO life support in its current form, it is believed that it will be able to better prepare the body for these devices or keep the lungs running until one becomes available.

"It is worth mentioning that our device could potentially be integrated into existing ventilators, allowing for seamless integration into existing clinical workflows," the researchers write.