Breathing through your WHAT???


I thought I’d heard everything.  I was wrong.

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.

. . .

Takebe and his team … 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.”

There’s more at the link.

Oh, the issues this raises . . .

  • I’ve heard of bad breath, but breathing through the rectum promises a whole new level of halitosis!
  • What if you cough?  The results could be disastrous!  As for a sneeze…
  • Would constipation now kill you, because you couldn’t breathe through the blockage?
  • How the hell do you use a handkerchief or nasal tissue down there when you get a cold?

Verily, the mind doth boggle . . .



  1. IF it proves that this method of oxygenation works, I suppose it is as an addtional to respiration, I wonder how it can be used to extend underwater activities. Swiming might be … uncomfortable?
    I while back I watched a scifi movie where a diver, in very deep depth, used a special diving suit and breathed liquid.
    Made me wonder.

  2. re: JaimeInTexas.
    that was The Abyss (an excellent movie), and for better or worse it was all cgi or cenematics, but it would be cool if we could do that without coming down with pneumonia.

    considering that the lower intestine removes water from its contents, absorbing oxygen isn't that much of a stretch (very sorry for the pun).

  3. There was CGI, but the underwater scenes were filmed in the abandoned containment building of the (never finished) Cherokee Nuclear plant near Gaffney, SC.

  4. Frogs and salamanders can both absorb oxygen through their skin when submerged, so it's not much of a stretch to believe that O2 could be absorbed through the human gut. While it might keep you alive, I doubt it's enough oxygen to support much activity.

  5. @stine,

    Sorry to pop your bubble, but the oxygen fluorocarbon breathing scene with the rat in Abyss was all actual real-world stuff, shot as-is.
    You could look it up.

    The human rig supposedly by SEALs for Ed Harris' scenes wasn't CGI either, it was pure fantasy. They just made a helmet faceplate with a sandwiched outer layer of blue liquid, took out his helmet microphone, and told him to shut up. (One of Cameron's greatest cinematic achievements, btw. Ed is a bit unhinged.)

    But in 1988, when it was made, CGI was pretty much minimally existent, and looked awful on film. Your kids could do higher-quality stuff now on their cell phones.

    All the underwater scenes, as noted above, were shot in the flooded incomplete reactor containment building at a would-be nuke plant in SC, under about 40 feet of water. With a big black tarp over the top to make it dark 24/7. Not a lot of CGI going on there either.

    The indoor stuff was just normal soundstage work.

  6. Re the OP, this is still just theoretical beyond lab rat studies.

    The problem with humans, just like for diving, is that you can't get a sufficient gas exchange in liquid.

    Getting oxygen in is only half the problem.
    You have to get the CO2 out as well, or you're just spinning your wheels.

    We don't have gills, nor even artificial ones, so I wouldn't expect to see this go anywhere for decades, if ever.

    Currently, the far simpler artificial kidney is about the size of a Prius. Even the portables are refrigerator-sized.

    This may go somewhere someday, but not for some good time.

  7. In reference to what stine2469 said, there is now a recognised treatment for those with "miner's lungs" where unwanted and otherwise impossible to remove particles are in the lung.

    Under a general anesthesia, a lung is filled with sterile water and a bit of antibiotic and then drained. This is done on one lung in the procedure whilst breathing is maintained through the other lung, and it makes a marked difference in preventing further scarring of the lung tissue.

  8. I have no idea how you would run human experiments or anything resembling a clinical trial using this technique, and I do not envy the person that has to write that protocol.

  9. This is essentially the same reason alcoholics use vodka enemas to get drunk really quickly. Easy to overdose though. There are quite a few alcohol poisoning fatalities every year from people doing this.

  10. There are far more useful applications.

    The French (who else?) successfully sussed out in the recent festivities in Iraq that when their squaddies got all IED'ed, and had all their handy peripheral access veins blown off along with their arms and legs, as a result still needed massive fluid resuscitation to survive.

    Ever resourceful, French combat medics and surgeons managed to use the intestines for the task by essentially ramming a garden hose up the patient's tailpipe, and infusing rapid fluid bolii, keeping Pvt. Stumpy alive long enough to get to definitive surgery.

    It was so successful, there's now an American company who has perfected and gained approval from the FDA for the Tailpipe IV for such traumatic situations, demonstrating yet again that if there's a way to make a profit, business will always beat a path to your door to get to it.

  11. Actually, several species of turtles already breathe through their asses when hibernating underwater over the winter. The turtle itself is in a very low energy state with a cold body temp and a heartbeat once or twice a minute, and gas exchange is accomplished via the cloaca, with the anus dilated during the hibernation period.

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