Carbon monoxide (CO) is the most common cause of injury and death from poisoning, not only in industrialized nations but also worldwide. It is created by incomplete combustion, for example in house fires, in fireplaces and defective heating systems. It is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas and thus imperceptible to humans. CO poisoning can therefore affect anyone. When CO is inhaled, it passes through the lungs into the blood, where it binds to the oxygen transport protein hemoglobin. Compared to oxygen (O2), however, CO binds with an affinity that is about 250 times higher, i.e., already at a CO content of 0.1 percent in the air, about half of the hemoglobin is occupied. This blocks the transport of O2 and results in a massive O2 deficiency, which is particularly critical for the heart and brain. Patients suffocate internally; CO poisoning is a time-critical emergency.
The antidote for carbon monoxide is a high concentration of O2. Currently, there are two established therapies, but neither is ideal: Administration of O2 via breathing mask (NBO) is easily available, but not effective. CO is not eliminated quickly enough, leading to long-term effects in one out of three patients, such as impaired memory, concentration, and speech, as well as depression and parkinsonism. Ideally, patients are treated as soon as possible in a pressure chamber with hyperbaric oxygen (HBO). This results in only 10% of patients developing long-term effects. However, e.g. in Germany, there are only 4 pressure chambers that are available 24 hours a day. This results in critical transport and waiting times, on average of 4 - 6 hours, if a pressure chamber is available at all. During this long delay, the lack of oxygen to the organs continues. Additionally, the number of pressure chambers, room-sized devices that cost millions of Euros, is decreasing. In conclusion, neither therapy was developed specifically for CO poisoning; thus, the ideal therapy does not exist yet.
We are developing a completely new therapy system specifically and thus optimally for the treatment of CO poisoning. Our solution, the HBOX, is a portable, simple and effective pressure chamber just for the patient's blood. The HBOX therefore acts specifically where the O2 transport is blocked. In contrast to the pressure chamber, which requires the patients to enter entirely, the HBOX can be small, mobile and cost-effective. Thus, it can be made extensively available and even be used at the accident site. We are revolutionizing the therapy of CO poisoning by essentially bringing HBO to the patients. With the HBOX, the patients can be treated immediately and since it is more effective than HBO, the therapy only takes about an hour.