Breathing From Behind
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breathing from behind

COVID-nineteen highlighted our dependence on ventilators to keep the very sick breathing, but there is a downside. While they save lives, they can also damage lungs because of the high pressure used to get air inside. Do we have a better option? Maybe.

Nature shows us alternate ways fish and arthropods get oxygen; They can actually breathe through their guts. The human colon is also a remarkable organ whose primary purpose is to remove water and salts from digested food and create "solid" waste for exiting. But scientists have been exploring whether oxygen introduced into the colon could sustain life.

In studies with mice, those given low oxygen air survived eighteen minutes, but those getting gaseous oxygen directly to their colons lived up to fifty minutes. Next they tried using an oxygen carrying liquid called perfluorocarbon to deliver the oxygen. It's already being used in premature infants and adults to supply oxygen to the lungs and directly into blood vessels.

Mice in a low oxygen chamber receiving perfluorocarbon through the rectum fared much better than mice receiving just saline. In pigs with respiratory failure, those given enemas with oxygenated perfluorocarbon lived for extended times. And they had no obvious side effects.

This "breathing from behind" may be a game changer one day for many of us with lung injuries or who get critically ill avoid ventilators for something a bit gentler.

For more information…

Mammals Can Use Their Intestines to Breathe
Researchers show that both mice and pigs are capable of oxygenating their blood via the colon-a capacity that, if shared by humans, could be leveraged in the clinic to minimize the need for mechanical ventilation...

Mammalian enteral ventilation ameliorates respiratory failure
Several aquatic organisms such as loaches have evolved unique intestinal breathing mechanisms to survive under extensive hypoxia. To date, it is highly controversial whether such capability can be adapted in mammalian species as another site for gas exchange. Here, we report the advent of the intestinal breathing phenomenon in mammalians by exploiting EVA (enteral ventilation via anus)...

Enteral ventilation via anus: You can hold your breath
Enteral ventilation via anus (EVA) is an enema-like procedure to deliver oxygen to the body through the distal gut. This is a provocative idea and those first encountering it will express astonishment. Yet, as the potential clinical role is considered and the data presented by Okabe et al.1 is examined, EVA emerges as a promising therapy deserving scientific and medical interest. Initial perception of EVA is likely to parallel that of fecal microbiota transplant for recurrent C. difficile infection which not long ago was deemed untenable for "practical and aesthetic reasons," but now has less stigma as data supporting effectiveness are overwhelming...