Scientists hunting for new ways to treat carbon monoxide poisoning are trying a new tactic: hitting blood with bright lights to break the stranglehold of the toxin, reports STAT.
But outside experts say the approach — one of several potential treatments currently being studied — only underscores how complicated it is to stop carbon monoxide from wreaking havoc on the body or to reverse the damage it has already done.
Carbon monoxide poisoning has become far less common in the U.S. in recent decades, thanks to public health campaigns and the introduction of catalytic converters in cars. But it still sends an estimated 50,000 people to the emergency room in the U.S. each year and leads to thousands of deaths each year across the country.
The new device, described Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, works somewhat like oxygen treatments, in that it’s designed to clear the blood of carbon monoxide more quickly than if a patient was just breathing regular air. It relies on an existing device called an ECMO machine, also known as an artificial lung. Artificial lungs pump blood out of a patient through heavy-duty IVs, add oxygen and take out carbon dioxide, and then send the blood back into a patient’s body. They are used to care for people whose lungs or hearts aren’t working well enough to keep them alive.