As children we all played the game where we competed to see who could hold their breath longer than anyone else in the pool. Think back. How long could you hold it before the burning sensation compelled you to surface and gulp lungfuls of air? Thirty seconds? A minute? A minute and a half?
As impressive as those times are, you soon might be able to hold your breath for up to 30 minutes without any adverse effects.
Amazingly, scientists at the Boston Children’s Hospital have devised a microparticle that, when injected into the bloodstream, can super-oxygenate a person’s blood and allow them to live for up to 30 minutes without having to take a single breath.
Currently the person with the distinction of holding his breath the longest is German Tom Sietas, who in June 2012 remained underwater for a staggering 22 minutes and 22 seconds. With the new technology, you can hold your breath for a further eight minutes.
Such a scientific and medical breakthrough has countless applications, the most obvious of which is to save lives in emergency rooms and hospitals. Every household’s medicine cabinet might one day store a microparticle-dispenser of some kind next to the Tylenol and cough medicine that can be administered to a family member who happens to get a chicken bone lodged in his throat. Long-distance runners might use the technology to ensure that their blood receives enough oxygen. As a precaution, parents might give their children a shot of super-oxygen before dropping them off at the community pool or taking them out on the fishing boat. People who enjoy erotic asphyxiation — the act of deliberately restricting airflow for sexual pleasure — can have a treatment on hand in case things get too carried away. (Of course, someone else would need to be present to give them the dosage, since they would be unconscious.)
Imagine the military applications. Soldiers who never tire? Navy SEALs who need not surface for air until the most opportune time?
The DC character Aquaman, who can speak telepathically with sea creatures as well as breathe underwater, often gets mocked by readers and geeks for having the least useful and desirable superpowers among his fellow Justice League members.
As funny as the Family Guy clip is, no one would scoff at a person’s amazing ability to hold his breath for half an hour, thereby making him King of the Pool.
But like any new cutting-edge technology, it might take some time before these so-called microparticles are available for general consumption. So, you know, don’t hold your breath.