Saffron's Space

This week in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality we talk about the almost impossible.

Scientists have achieved something spectacular: an injected fluid which allows you to survive without breathing for up to 15 minutes!

So far it’s only been used in animal trials but think of the possibilities, not just medically but recreationally as well. What would you do if you didn’t have to breath for 30 minutes? Altitude? Not a problem. Diving? Not a problem. Space? Not a problem (aside from your body exploding…).

The Science: So the science behind this technology is that a lipid (fat) particle is infused with oxygen at a much higher concentration than our own red blood cells. These particles are called lipidic oxygen-containing microparticles (LOMs). This solution is injected and mixes with the patient’s blood, providing oxygen to deprived haemoglobin. The animal trials have shown that asphyxiated animals given LOMs maintain normal blood pressure and heart rate compared to control animals given simple saline solution. The animals given LOMs also lived longer and did not suffer from organ damage.

 
Lung - Miliary tuberculosis

What does it mean: Medically this technology could mean the difference between life and death or prevent brain damage. These LOMs could provide the vital extra minutes a patient needs when they are suffering from a breathing restriction. So many people could benefit; water inhalation, severe pneumonia, lung collapse, the list goes on.

The ability to go without breathing also has military implications; underwater missions, toxic gas and lung damage are much less serious when you don’t need to breath!

What about Sci-fi? Well if you ask me this is pretty much the limits of science fiction as we see it now. The need to breath is so intrinsic to us as humans that picturing a world where it’s not necessary is almost impossible. But, that’s just what we’re facing with this new technology. Sure, right now it’s only been tested on animals and only lasts for a short while, but where will the future take us?

What if you could ‘swim’ through space? Sure, we still have to deal with the negative air-pressure, but that will come. Aqueous planets aren’t as far-fetched as we once thought, a city of humans living and surviving underwater is completely plausible with this technology. What if we do manage to fill our entire atmosphere with noxious gases? With LOMs humans could hypothetically survive, almost as normal, on a planet with a toxic atmosphere.

How would not having to breath influence your life? What would you do if you had this ability? What do LOMs mean for science fiction?

 
Read the scientific article here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.3003679


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