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  • Thanks to Nature's Fynd for sponsoring this episode.

  • We teamed up with Nature's Fynd to explain the science behind Fy,

  • their nutritional fungi protein.

  • Check out the link in the description to learn more.

  • [♪ INTRO]

  • Scientists have known for some time that certain animals

  • breathe using their butts -- in some form or another.

  • But in nature, it's mostly limited to things like fish

  • adapted to low-oxygen conditions.

  • Now, researchers based in Japan and the US have determined that

  • certain mammals -- like pigs, rats and mice -- can do this too.

  • Yep, that's right.

  • Mammals can breathe out of their butts.

  • Technically, out of their intestines.

  • But if you thought we weren't going to make as many butt jokes as possible

  • I don't know what show you've been watching

  • In their paper published last week in the journal Med,

  • not only do these researchers outline how this is possible,

  • using a sort of oxygen enema

  • they proposed a new way of treating respiratory failure in humans.

  • And it could potentially save your butt one day

  • especially in places where conventional methods, like ventilators,

  • are in short supply.

  • Now before you click away in disgust, hear me out.

  • Underwater creatures like sea cucumbers and some fish

  • have all evolved the ability to breathe through their intestines

  • if the need arises.

  • This skill comes in handy during times of distress,

  • like when there are low levels of oxygen in the water.

  • We mammals do not need to breathe in deoxygenated ponds,

  • but mammalian intestines are pretty great at absorbing things

  • like pharmaceuticals and nutrients.

  • There are lots of blood vessels in that region

  • covered with a thin mucus lining.

  • So in the new study, researchers suspected oxygen absorption

  • in that region might be possible, even in animals not specially adapted

  • to survive in low oxygen conditions.

  • To find out for sure, they took several mice

  • and scrubbed the intestines of some of them,

  • to try to thin out the mucus layer.

  • Sounds very unpleasant

  • The mice were then subjected to dangerously low oxygen levels

  • while having pure, compressed oxygen gas

  • injected into their intestines.

  • [pained grunt]

  • 75 percent of the mice with the scrubbed intestines

  • survived the almost hour-long experiment.

  • Those without intestinal scrubbing survived for only a few minutes.

  • But intestinal scrubbing isn't what you'd call clinically feasible.

  • Maybe for the best.

  • So the researchers replaced the oxygen gas

  • with an inert, oxygenated liquid known as perfluorodecalin.

  • This type of liquid is able to carry large amounts of oxygen,

  • and is already in use in some human medicine.

  • It's sometimes used as a substitute for blood during surgeries!

  • The researchers exposed mice and pigs

  • to life-threateningly low oxygen conditions,

  • and flushed some of their intestines with this liquid,

  • while the control group only received a saline solution.

  • While the control group's oxygen levels crashed,

  • those that received the oxygen enema? They stabilized.

  • The researchers say their findings not only demonstrate

  • that mammals are capable of absorbing oxygen

  • through their intestines, but also that this new method

  • may be a safe treatment for humans in respiratory distress.

  • And, like, ideally, after so many mice and pigs have, like, you know, been through it.

  • It would need to go through additional safety testing and clinical trials,

  • but the researchers believe it could be used in situations

  • where ventilators aren't readily available.

  • There have already been severe ventilator shortages world-wide

  • due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • If approved for human use, this treatment could be a life-saving tool

  • for patients in respiratory distress.

  • Now speaking of gas

  • in other news, researchers in Washington state

  • have developed a new method for turning waste plastics

  • into something useful -- jet fuel!

  • And it only takes one hour from start to finish.

  • Plastic recycling is complicated.

  • We have the best intentions when we toss a bottle in that bin,

  • but it's expensive, and takes a lot of time, heat, and energy to recycle.

  • And it alters the plastic in such a way that it needs to be mixed

  • with new plastic in order to create a similar product.

  • And that's not even going into the different kinds of plastic.

  • As a result, only nine percent of the plastic

  • produced in the United States is recycled every year.

  • Yikes.

  • But new research, published this week in the journal Chem Catalysis,

  • proposes an additional avenue for plastic recycling.

  • The researchers focused on polyethylene,

  • the most commonly used type of plastic,

  • found in everything from plastic bags to shampoo bottles

  • to plastic furniture.

  • They were looking for new ways to break that plastic down,

  • to create more options for how to reuse it.

  • Because if you could turn that plastic into more than just plastic,

  • it might open up some new end points for that milk jug in your fridge.

  • But chemically breaking down plastic can also be a challenge,

  • in that it can require a catalyst,

  • which is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction,

  • plus high temperatures, ranging from 300 to 900 degrees Celsius.

  • But this new procedure uses a catalyst that's a combination

  • of ruthenium metal and carbon, which turns out to be

  • particularly effective at breaking the bonds within the plastic.

  • The reaction also doesn't require as much heat

  • compared to other methods - it works at 220 degrees Celsius.

  • Plus, it's fairly speedy.

  • Once the researchers had perfected their method,

  • around 90 percent of the plastic was broken down in just an hour.

  • The researchers were able to adjust the processing conditions,

  • such as temperature, time and amount of catalyst,

  • in order to fine-tune what type of products were produced at the end,

  • including higher-dollar items like jet fuel.

  • They believe that this same process will work

  • on other types of plastic as well.

  • We can safely assume that the gases leftover after the jet fuel burns

  • are still going to end up in the atmosphere.

  • But the plastic won't end up in a landfill this way,

  • and you can definitely argue that giving that carbon

  • a second go-round after pulling it out of the ground

  • is still a greener approach.

  • It's not a perfect solution to our plastics problem,

  • but it might be a piece of the puzzle.

  • Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow,

  • which was brought to you by Nature's Fynd,

  • the fungi-based food company for optimists.

  • Nature's Fynd makes delicious vegan foods that all started

  • with a microbe with origins in Yellowstone National Park.

  • From a NASA-backed research project,

  • through their novel fermentation technology,

  • foods made with Fy, their nutritional fungi protein,

  • are making their way to your table.

  • And I mean it when I say the food tastes great!

  • I got to have their fungi-based cream cheese,

  • which, I was like, "Ok, I'll eat fungi-based cream cheese..."

  • But then...

  • I need it!

  • I need more!

  • If you want to learn more about Nature's Fynd

  • and the science behind their meatless and dairy-free foods,

  • click on the link in the description.

  • [♪ OUTRO]

Thanks to Nature's Fynd for sponsoring this episode.

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B1 US oxygen fungi nature jet fuel breathe catalyst

Oxygen Enemas Could Save Lives

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    joey joey posted on 2021/06/28
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