by Annie Churdar in Tech on Tuesday 7 May 2013

Dr. John Kheir began the hunt for a particle that could save the lives of patients who experience respiratory failure. Back in 2006 he worked with a girl in ICU at the Boston Children’s Hospital who had severe pneumonia. Because the girl was eventually unable to breathe due to blood filling her lungs, she died from the brain damage that resulted from lack of oxygen.

Kheir realized the need for a microparticle that could be injected into a patient’s blood stream to oxygenate it and save them from brain damage. So he set out to create a microparticle that could hold three to four times more oxygen then our regular blood cells.

So what does the microparticle mean for the rest of us? If this particle is injected into your blood stream, you can survive without breathing for about 30 minutes. Medically, the particle could save lives, in cases such as the girl Kheir treated with pneumonia.

But think about other uses: Navy Seals can now swim underwater for longer periods of time. Or imagine if you were on a sinking boat and shots of the particle was passed around? We’d have no need for safety rafts or life vests.

Or if you had the money, the particle could be used for snorkeling and underwater exploring without all the clunky gear. It’s bizarre and ingenious at the same time.