Pigs and Mice Can Breathe Through Their Anuses

A team of scientists aiming to address an overwhelming “clinical need for ventilators and artificial lungs” has performed a series of oxygenation experiments on pigs, rats, and mice. In order to see if the mammals could breathe from another orifice aside from their mouths and noses, the scientists deprived them of oxygen and then fed O2 in through their anuses. The scientists showed the anus-fed oxygen kept some animals alive, and say this method may help people one day.

Phys.org reported on the new research, which the team of scientists outlined in a recent study published in the journal Med. Takanori Takebe of the Tokyo Medical and Dental University and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, led the team.

“Artificial respiratory support plays a vital role in the clinical management of respiratory failure due to severe illnesses such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome,” Takebe told Phys.org. “Although the side effects and safety need to be thoroughly evaluated in humans, our approach may offer a new paradigm to support critically ill patients with respiratory failure,” the scientist added.

In this instance, artificial respiratory support consists of supplying a subject with O2 gas or an oxygenated liquid intra-rectally. In the image above, for example, the scientists show how they provided their test pigs with oxygen via their anuses; this method calls for using oxygenated perfluorochemicals. (Perfluorochemicals are non-biodegradable organic molecules that major industries use for things like cooking surfaces and electrical wires.) The diagram shows how the scientists deprived half-submerged pigs of oxygen, then fed perfluorochemicals into their systems via their anuses.

In the tests using the perfluorochemicals and O2 gas, the oxygen-deprived animals remained alive longer than they would have otherwise. With gas ventilation, the scientists say 75% of their test mice survived otherwise lethally low oxygen levels. (For 50 minutes, no less.) The pigs, likewise, were able to withstand non-lethal states of oxygen depravation using the intra-rectal method.

A team of scientists has developed a method that allows pigs and mice to breathe through their anuses rather than their mouths and noses.

Christopher Dorobek

“The next steps will be to test safety of the EVA approach with more profound mechanistic understanding by which it works; and to establish effectiveness in humans in a clinical setting,” Takebe told Eureka Alert. If the scientists can establish the method’s efficacy with people, it may lead to an “oxygen enema” type of device. Although there are obviously a lot of obstacles to overcome before that happens. Suffice to say, we’re not holding our breath.

Feature image: Christopher Dorobek

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