Breathing is the most important and natural activity we carry on in order to live. Before birth it is done through the placenta, and after with the Lungs. Normally the lungs of the foetus are filled with amniotic liquid and, at birth, the first cry activates this respiration surface. But the main problem with premature babies is that their lungs are not well formed. Moreover, they often lack surfactant, which is a compound formed by proteins and lipids that avoids the lungs folding in on themselves before the baby gets stronger.
Hospitals are equipped with ventilators now days to help by providing an artificial surfactant. But sometimes it is not always sufficient to help correct the problems. With this mind the Nautical School at the University of the Basque Country has developed a new liquid respiration respirator. The machine is supposed to stimulate placentary respiration by filling the lungs of the premature baby with liquid and then the respirator introduces and extracts the required quantity of liquid at a suitable respiratory rhythm.
Perfluorocarbon is used in liquid respiration, it has a suitable surface tension to help maintain the pulmonary structure and the fluorine has good properties to maintain the transport the exchange between blood and the gases, O2 and CO2. The respirator syringes introduce the oxygenated perfluorocarbon to the very last alveoli. Here oxygen is released and carbon dioxide taken up in the same way as on the respiration surface. Then the respirator extracts part of the perfluorocarbon from the lungs and introduces the next oxygenated dose. The same machine carries out the removal of CO2 from the perfluorocarbon and adds oxygen to it. Because of the liquid there is less pressure on the lungs of the premature baby making it suffer less stress and respire more easily.
But the down side of the good news is that though this machine is a success in prototype, and has been successfully tested in animals and near death premature babies, it would take a while to hit the markets. It is because there is no Perfluorocarbon available in the market. As babies use very little, and there is no known adult use the patent-owning company has decided not to market it as it feels it lacks profitability. Thus, an industrial version of the liquid respirator is yet to be developed.