Massive Science is celebrating nether regions this September, and kicked off their observances with a report on actual research at Tokyo Medical and Dental University that may someday save human lives with a new way to get oxygen into people whose lungs aren’t working… by sending it in through the back door:
(And caution, the experimental method here will not make animal lovers happy.)
A recent study in the journal Med now suggests that mammals, humans included, may be able to breathe through their rear ends as well. Mice, rats, and pigs could all stave off the devastating effects of oxygen deprivation if given an oxygen enema. But could this new method provide temporary oxygen while a patient awaits a ventilator?
In the first experiment, researchers used a model of oxygen deprivation in mice, preventing them from breathing through their lungs. The control group didn’t receive any intestinal ventilation, one group received oxygen through an anal catheter, and the final group had the mucus layer on their intestines “scrubbed” before receiving anal ventilation.
Remarkably, the mice supplied oxygen through their anus had elevated oxygen levels in their blood. The final group that also had their intestinal mucus scrubbed fared even better, surviving the longest in the low-oxygen conditions — five times as long as the control group. This experiment proved that there is potential for mammals to breathe through their butt, however, the mucus layer covering the intestinal epithelial cells makes it more difficult.
In a clinical setting, scrubbing the mucus off of a person’s intestines isn’t really feasible, and doesn’t sound like a pleasant experience. But using a method akin to an enema may work, by infusing safe, oxygenated liquid through the butt. This liquid, called perfluorodecalin, could safely store and deliver oxygen via an enema.
However, a company called Respirogen Inc. may beat him and his colleagues to it. Respirogen Inc. has registered a clinical trial to assess the safety of this method in healthy humans. Six healthy volunteers will experience induced hypoxia, by breathing in a mixture of gases with low oxygen content. In this study, these volunteers will then receive oxygen rectally to monitor whether this method can successfully increase oxygen levels and stave off symptoms of hypoxia. However, Respirogen Inc. will be using standard enemas and colonoscopy-cleansing procedures to reduce the chances someone will need to poop during the trial.
“In human use for treatment of hypoxia, cleansing of the colon will take place by standard enema or colonoscopy prep procedures, which are well understood and accepted,” Respirogen CEO Bob Scribner explained over email.