A team of Canadian researchers have developed an incredible system to reduce blood alcohol levels three times faster than normal, using a simple device the size of a briefcase that could save millions of lives around the world every year.
The group of scientists, led by Dr Joseph Fisher of the University Health Network, a medical research organization in Toronto, Canada, were exploring treatments for acute alcohol poisoning when they came across a new solution. that generated more than a few sighs of disbelief at how simple it was.
“It’s almost inexplicable why we didn’t try this decades ago,”Fisher said.
The new method involves recruiting the lungs to hyperventilate excess alcohol out of the body, which helps the liver to reduce alcohol levels in a patient’s bloodstream.
The only existing method of removing alcohol from the blood is dialysis (the process of removing excess water, fluids and toxins from the blood), but this would not be applicable with extreme alcohol consumption. because it takes too long. In most cases, the patient’s liver handles about 90% of the alcohol processing in their body, at a constant rate that usually cannot be adjusted externally.
Surprisingly enough, this new breathing technique reduced blood alcohol levels three times faster than just functioning of the liver alone.
“But you can’t just hyperventilate, because in a minute or two you would become dizzy and pass out,” warns Dr. Fisher. This is where his team’s device comes in.
Hyperventilation removes carbon dioxide (CO2) from the blood with alcohol, but a rapid decrease in CO2 levels in the blood can make you dizzy to the point of passing out; not ideal for treating patients at risk.
To alleviate this loss of consciousness, Fisher and his team developed a briefcase-sized device to safely reintroduce the required amount of CO2 into the bloodstream at normal levels and consciousness, despite hyperventilation.
“It is a very basic device and at the cutting edge of technology that could be manufactured anywhere in the world: no electronic device, no computer or no filter is necessary”, Fisher says, adding that at this time the device is only a proof of concept used by lab volunteers. He and his fellow authors recommend further studies to investigate its possible use in a clinical setting.
According to the World Health Organization, some three million deaths worldwide per year can be attributed to alcohol abuse, or 5.3% of all deaths worldwide, so this new carrier documents could prove to be an unprecedented lifeline.
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