Oxygen Gas–Filled Microparticles Provide Intravenous Oxygen Delivery

Science Translational Medicine  27 Jun 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 140, pp. 140ra88
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003679

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Oxygen on Demand

The clinical sequelae after prolonged oxygen deprivation can be serious, including cardiac arrest and brain damage. In these situations, patients are typically fed oxygen through a tube via the mouth. What happens when access to the lungs is impeded or delayed? Currently, few other options exist. In response, Kheir and colleagues have engineered microparticles that can be injected into the veins for systemic delivery of oxygen to all of the vital organs.

The lipidic oxygen–containing microparticles (LOMs) consist of a lipid shell and an oxygen gas (O2) core, with an approximate diameter of 4 μm. These tiny particles were designed to mix with venous blood and deliver O2 to oxygen-deprived hemoglobin—the molecule that carries oxygen to all tissues within the body. Kheir et al. first confirmed that the LOMs functioned as intended by mixing a foam suspension of the particles with human blood in tubes and measuring the rise in oxygenated hemoglobin. When administered intravenously to asphyxiated (and therefore hypoxemic) rabbits, the LOMs were able to maintain full-body oxygenation, normal blood pressure, and normal heart rate compared to control animals that only received a saline solution. The animals receiving LOMs also lived longer and did not experience any injury to major organs, such as liver and lungs.

This is an encouraging demonstration for critical care medicine situations, showing that animals can survive and remain healthy even after 10 to 15 min of complete asphyxia. Such short-term infusions could therefore serve an important therapeutic function for critically ill patients, but before you hear “LOMs, stat!” in the emergency room, additional studies will be needed to assess simultaneous removal of carbon dioxide buildup, LOM metabolism, and possible side effects from longer-term, continuous infusions.