Japanese scientists have found that it is possible for pigs and rats to receive respiratory oxygen via their anuses, and maybe humans will also be able to breathe through their butts in the near future. The researchers found that oxygen-starved mice and pigs may be able to breathe through their rectum, just as sea cucumbers, freshwater catfish, and freshwater loaches can breathe through their guts in conditions of very low marine oxygen.
Finding that many humans with damaged lungs require ventilators that are not readily available to breathe and remain alive, thoracic surgeon Ryo Okabe of Kyoto University set to research if there were other ways a human can breathe just like loaches. His paper was reviewed by gastroenterologist Takanori Takebe of the Tokyo Medical and Dental University and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“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 said. “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.”
To develop a new approach to assist patients with severe lung failure, Takebe started with growing lungs using stem cells in a dish. But he later switched to repurposing organs instead of growing new ones, having known that loaches repurposed their mouths to breathe outside of water instead of using their gills to breathe underwater in cases of low energy, Science Alert reports.
Take though mammals and people should be able to repurpose an existing organ for another purpose if it is really required. In the case of loaches, they do not have lungs like catfish, but the air they swallow through their mouth goes down to their intestines where the oxygen in it is absorbed. So for starters, the scientists pumped oxygen into the anuses or rectums or lab mice to see if their intestines could use the oxygen in the air.
Since the anesthetized mice were already deprived of oxygen before the procedure was carried out, the researchers found that the mice lived for a longer period of time, especially after thinning their intestinal wall to enable them to absorb the oxygen faster. They also introduced oxygen into the rats through a liquid substance known as perfluorochemical.
When the liquid containing oxygen was pumped into the rectum of pigs and lab mice, their blood oxygen was boosted and their regained color after being initially deprived of oxygen. Takebe said he never expected the procedure to work, but he was astonished that it did and that the animals recovered fully from severe hypoxia after their intestines absorbed oxygen pumped through their anuses.
The scientists are hoping that someday, human patients suffering from severe lung failure will be able to live longer by having oxygen introduced through their rectum.