To some people this is going to sound a little gross at first but hang with me, it’s worth it.
Pink, fleshy, and round, when you stop to think about it, the anus and the mouth have many similarities. Although one is a more appropriate topic for conversation, the other is every bit as important.
The two body parts outward appearances are similar for sure, but the similarities don’t stop there. Same as the mouth, the anus can also help animals breathe, new research suggests.
In a study so new it isn’t being published until sometime this month with a focus on exploring treatment for people with respiratory conditions. A team of scholars in Japan found pigs can absorb oxygen through their anus.
The scientists pumped oxygen and oxygenated liquid through animals’ anal opening and into their intestines, the researchers found, doing so allowed the animals to survive without breathing through their lungs.
“It’s so impressive because we never thought of breathing from the gut, but it’s possible,”Takanori Takebe, an author of the study and a doctor at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University
Last year, his team and collaborators from Nagoya University Graduate School and Kyodo University’s Department of Respiratory Surgery published their study focusing on mice.
Now they’re looking to submit their research on pigs, which are closer to humans in physiology and genetic makeup, to a U.S. medical journal in August.
The scientists were inspired to explore the unconventional breathing method by loaches, a freshwater fish that can use its intestines to breathe. They found that in extensive hypoxic conditions—when there isn’t enough oxygen available at the tissue level—the structure of loaches’ gut tissues changed to allow for easier breathing.
In order to see if mammals would also breathe through their anus in oxygen-deprived conditions, Takebe first tested mice. The findings, published in the journal Med last year, were “stunning,” he said.
“I’m always very skeptical about the results, but it turns out every time we do the tests, we can get reproducible datasets,”
Said Takebe, who practices medicine also at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Takebe plans to start human clinical trials as early as this year to prove its real-life efficacy.
Similar to how automated external defibrillators—portable medical devices used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest—are placed throughout public spaces like buildings and schools, Takebe said a shot of liquid oxygen could be made available to save those suffering sudden respiratory failure.
After confirming the safety of this method by testing healthy volunteers in a hospital, Takebe said he planned to recruit patients with respiratory conditions to put his findings to the test.
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