|Scientists think the breathing through the bottom method could help oxygen-deprived animals and people.Getty Images/iStockphoto|
In what sounds like a “South Park” episode, Japanese scientists have developed a procedure that allows lab animals to “breathe” out of their rectum.
In a new study published last week, scientists using an enema of oxygen-carrying liquid proved that oxygen-deprived animals — and maybe people — can be saved via their bottoms.
According to the New York Times, Dr. Takanori Takebe, of the Tokyo Medical and Dental University and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, started alternative oxygen-delivery research during his father’s struggle with lung disease.
While ventilators are helpful, they’re not always available and can break. “We clearly need different strategies to help out patients with severe lung failure,” Dr. Takebe told the Times.
Through his trials, Takebe first did what sounds like a reverse fart — pumping oxygen up the rectums of anesthetized, oxygen-deprived mice. The procedure would have been too painful and not useful for humans as the mice intestines had to be scraped first.
So Takebe and his team started to look into whether the intestines could absorb oxygen, and began squirting an oxygen-packed liquid into the rectums of mice and pigs who’d been induced into oxygen-deprived hypoxia.
“The mice started walking around again; the pale skin of the anesthetized pigs turned a healthy pink,” the times reports.
“They are completely recovering from the very, very severe hypoxia,” Takebe told the paper. “That was really astonishing to me.”
Jonathan Mark Wilson, a biologist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada, told the Times he “doesn’t know of any animals that literally inhale air through their bottoms. But turtles spend the winter sitting on the bottom of a pond, never coming up for air, and survive by taking in oxygen from the water via their rear ends. Mimicking such a process in mammals makes a lot of sense.”
Dr. Caleb Kelly, who wrote an accompanying study for Takebe, conceded the concept is “fascinating” and possibly “feasible” — but odd.
“It’s kind of a startling idea, to use that part of human anatomy for gas exchange,” he told the Times.
Hallelujah! Science marches on.