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Ozone vs COPD

This idea is mostly for smokers.
  [vote for,

Some Googling indicates that this Idea might already be "out there" (the link I found wasn't very specific) but since I independently thought this Idea up, and since, very probably, very few people know about it....

An acquantaince of mine was diagnosed with something known as "COPD", an acronym that stands for "Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease". This is not your typical disease that one normally associates with an infection; the word should be interpreted as "Dis-ease" or "not at ease". Because it is most definitely about not being able to breathe easily.

Basically, various things might cause stuff to get into the lungs that Obstructs the ability of atmospheric oxygen to reach the bloodstream via the Pulmonary system (lungs). I had not known anything about this ailment before the particular person mentioned above ended up going to the hospital because of it.

It happens that that person was a fairly heavy smoker, and it may logically follow that the stuff that built up in the lungs was "cigarette tar".

For a first-hand experience of cigarette tar, start with a room painted white, and then let a bunch of smokers use it for a few months. The walls will turn dingy yellow as tar that did not end up in the cigarette filters, or in the smokers' lungs, builds up on the walls.

We can think of that layer of tar as being somewhat in-between a (potentially suffocating) plastic film and a layer of oil (such as we pour onto stagnant water to prevent mosquito larvae from getting oxygen). It logically follows that if enough of it builds up in the lungs, breathing would indeed become more difficult! And will likely stay difficult until something can clean the tar out of the lungs.

Years ago I read in the magazine Scientific American about some early experiments with the lungs. A healthy person really only needs one lung to survive; a volunteer could literally have one lung filled up with water and keep breathing. When I recalled that, I wondered if it might be possible to fill each lung (one after the other) with some sort of soapy water, that would dissolve the tar without damaging lung tissue. Probably the patient would die anyway, though, because the COPD would prevent enough oxygen getting through the OTHER lung, while trying to clean the first lung. (Hmmmm....maybe if a heart-lung machine was used to keep the blood oxygenated...)

If the preceding is workable --and keep in mind some forms of COPD are declared to be incurable-- then I could stop here with a valid original Idea, and without even mentioning ozone (a reference about which I found on the Web, as mentioned). Nevertheless, the urge to explain stuff is upon me....

For anyone who doesn't know, ozone is a variety of oxygen molecule that is constructed from three atoms. The ordinary oxygen molecule that makes up almost 20% of Earth's atmosphere is a two-atom thing. The ozone molecule is not as physically stable as the ordinary oxygen molecule, and the result is that ozone happens to be the second-most-reactive chemical substance known (after elemental fluorine gas). Comparatively speaking, ordinary oxygen is a pussycat compared to the tiger that is ozone.

Note that the "ozone layer" high in the stratosphere, which blocks a lot of the Sun's ultraviolet light, actually consists of a fairly low percentage of ozone molecules mixed with air molecules. But since the layer is miles deep, the molecules add up to form a pretty good shield. Also note that in the lower atmosphere, when ozone is produced by electric sparks in various machinery, the gas is considered to be a pollutant --a very corrosive pollutant! It can also be dangerous if a significant quantity is inhaled, because it can attack and damage the lungs (not unlike chlorine gas, which was used as a weapon in World War One).

Ozone is so reactive that when mixed with a wide variety of other substances, the mixture can be called "hypergolic". This means a major chemical reaction can immediately and spontaneously begin without any sort of spark or other reaction-initiator. (Trivia: NASA likes hypergolic substances in some of its rockets, because they remove a possible point-of-failure in the hardware (reaction initiator device) --simply getting the chemicals together is guaranteed to make the engine roar!)

It happens that besides lung tissue, many of the substances with which ozone is hypergolic are hydrocarbons such as tar. Well, if we now remember that smoker's COPD means that the lung tissue is practically entirely coated with tar, then the Idea here now simply and logically follows.

We need an "endoscope", which is a flexible fiber-optic thing that can be used to examine the interior of a body, and a secondary small-diameter flexible tube (probably made of some chemically resistant stuff like silicone) to carry small amounts of ozone gas. After disabling the natural choking reflex with a local anesthetic, we start sending the two things on their journey into the lungs. They are thin enough to not interfere with the patient's airflow (who is likely inside an oxygen tent, anyway).

After using the endoscope to follow numerous branchings, and reaching some endpoint within a lung, we now gently puff a small amount of ozone into that location. Since it is a small amount, what will happen is that the ozone will react with the first stuff it encounters --tar!-- and get "used up", mostly forming carbon dioxide and water vapor, and leaving the lung tissue unharmed. We now use the endoscope to move to a different location in the lung, and release another puff of ozone. It could take quite a while to visit most of the innards of the lungs in this manner, but by breaking up the tar and relieving the patient from COPD, there is every reason to think the task would be worth it!

Vernon, Jul 16 2010

Something like this idea. http://www.ncbi.nlm...vhper00540-0074.pdf
[mouseposture, Jul 16 2010]

Pulmonary lavage http://www.springer...t/0t112609r764v8w0/
Still used for proteinosis, I think. It must not have been as effective for COPD. I am not sure why. [bungston, Jul 16 2010]


       /Nevertheless, the urge to explain stuff is upon me.... \ Self knowledge is the highest knowledge.
zeno, Jul 16 2010

       I smoke. I wanna have my lungs washed out periodically, perhaps at some trendy lungwashing bar downtown. At the lungwash. +
zeno, Jul 16 2010

       // there is every reason to think the task would be worth it! //   

       By saving a smoker to smoke again ?   


       Since the oxidation of the tar is likely to be highly exothermic, some scarring is inevitable.   

       It would be more cost-effective to press a large plastic bag stuffed with cigarette butts over their nose and mouth until the struggling stops.
8th of 7, Jul 16 2010

       [Vernon] feel free to correct me, but, as I recall COPD consists of two problems, neither of which would be helped by this idea. In emphysema, the problem is not that intact bronchial and alveolar walls are coated with tar. The principal problem -- emphysema -- is that walls are destroyed, leading to enlarged airspaces, and obstructive lung disease.   

       If I'm not mistaken, the second problem, chronic bronchitis, is only marginally more appropriate to this idea: the lungs are clogged with thick secretions -- mucus not tar -- which the patient has difficulty coughing up to the top of the bronchial tree for spitting out. And this idea relies on the ozone reacting preferentially with tar.   

       Also a lot of the glop you're trying to clean out of lungs is contained inside macrophages; your ozone'll have no access to it unless it kills the cells.   

       In support of this idea, though, I'll point out that those cells already use strong oxidisers themselves to "clean up" foreign material -- however a lot of complex regulatory machinery is required to prevent them doing more harm than good e.g. <link>
mouseposture, Jul 16 2010

       [8th of 7], yes, oxidation can release a lot of energy, but it doesn't have to happen all at once. If it is better to have smaller but multiple puffs of ozone at each location, to avoid thermal scarring, then that is fine.   

       [mouseposture], thanks for the info. I'm not sure that COPD always means that emphysema and bronchitis are also present, though. This Idea assumed that word "Obstructive" does not mean "destroyed", but I can certainly see your point about, if there is some lung tissue that has been destroyed in terms of its ability to work properly, pieces of that destroyed tissue might get in the way of undestroyed lung tissue that still works. This Idea might still be effective in that case, though. Living cells are mostly hydrocarbons, after all. If destroyed tissue blocks working tissue, and ozone is in the area, then it is reasonable to expect the ozone to eat away at the obstructing tissue, before it encounters the working tissue.   

       That web link I talked about mentioned "ozone therapy for COPD" without providing any details, or even a link to more information. I could assume that the simplest such therapy would be to just breathe in small amounts of ozone mixed with ordinary air. But I would also assume such therapy to be more dangerous than what I described in the main text here. After all, with a suitable filter and an appropriate color of laser light for illumination, the endoscope could be used to locate the places where the obstructions are the heaviest, which of course would be the places to specifically target with small puffs of ozone.
Vernon, Jul 16 2010

       Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a syndrome that encompasses both chronic bronchitis and emphysema, the former being defined by the presence of a productive cough of more than 3 months duration for more than 2 successive years and is due to increase secretion of mucus but is not necessarily associated with airflow limitation. Emphysema on the other hand is enlargement of air spaces as a result of destruction of lung parenchyma, with loss of lung elasticity and early closure of small airways as a result of this loss of elasticity. Most patients with COPD have features of both.   

       The 'obstruction' that is referred to is predominantly an obstruction to to airflow during the expiratory phase. Destruction of normally elastic lung tissue (which aids expiration) along with early closure of small airways means a decline in the forced expiratory volume in 1s. i.e. an obstruction to airflow.   

       So, the 'obstruction' is not a result of 'stuff' blocking the airways, but rather a loss of normal elastic function of the lung caused by the toxins in cigarette smoke, that o-zone is unlikely to help with. It may in fact be harmful given the current theories on oxidative stress as an aetiological factor in COPD.   

       //fill each lung (one after the other) with some sort of soapy water,// or bronchoalveolar lavage has very few applications these days - I can think of only one right now, and even today is associated with fairly high morbidity and mortality.   

       //After using the endoscope to follow numerous branchings, and reaching some endpoint within a lung// As someone who uses a fibre-optic bronchoscope on a weekly basis, I can tell you that getting the thing into secondary divisions of the lung is difficult enough, and there are up to 17 divisions in normal lungs before reaching the respiratory bronchioles where gas exchange takes place. It also usually takes a little more than a bit of local anaesthetic to suppress the cough reflex!
shudderprose, Jul 16 2010

       // It may in fact be harmful given the current theories on oxidative stress as an aetiological factor in COPD. //   

       We're beginning to warm to the idea ...
8th of 7, Jul 16 2010

       //"Obstructive" does not mean "destroyed"// yes it does (see [shudderprose]'s anno). //I'm not sure that COPD always means that emphysema and bronchitis are also present// I am. COPD is, by definition, emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis. Google "blue bloater pink puffer"
mouseposture, Jul 17 2010

       OK, well, if it can't work like I thought, then all we have to do is remember that this is the HalfBakery....
Vernon, Jul 17 2010

       If impossible to dose residues and remove them from the lungs, why not "crop dust" them and push them in deeper? Take a look at the size of asbestos crystals that produce mesotheliomas, and mill them much smaller and more uniform in size. Nebulize this finely milled dust and administer it to someone in the earliest phases of COPD while sufficient wedge pressure exists in the lungs and fluid mobility occurs in and through lung interstitial tissue.   

       Milled asbestos will permeate the lungs and travel through tissue to the lung surface -- beyond the airway. There may be a way to even enhance the transport of solid material through the lungs by attaching tobacco specific monoclonal antibodes to the asbestos so that tar adheres to the crystals for their ride to the lung pleura.
reensure, Jul 22 2010

       [reensure] IIRC the fact that asbestos leaves the lungs in this way is precisely the reason it causes the otherwise rare form of cancer that it does*. Are you suggesting that, for cigarette goop, that would be a _good_ thing? Seems like a risky bet. Or, to put it differently, a very half-baked idea.   

       *Any connection between your nom-de-HB and mesothelioma?
mouseposture, Jul 22 2010

       Nah. I'm just blowing smoke.   

       I think the Cubans have made advances in lung cleaning, but their data and methods are proprietary so I can but speculate on what those might be.
reensure, Jul 22 2010


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