Where's the bovine lipid extract surfactant?
April 6, 2019 11:55 AM   Subscribe

How an inconspicuous slaughterhouse keeps the world’s premature babies alive (Content Warning: descriptions of animal slaughter which get fairly visceral about two-thirds of the way into the story.)
posted by jacquilynne (5 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
"In the 1980s" the article says but I'd love some more specific info on how widespread and when, because this would explain the part of my birth story where my mom would say my lungs just "healed themselves". Is cow lung foam why I'm alive today? I'd love to know just for the hell of it.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 1:19 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you're squeamish like me, but still curious about the mechanics and how they work, shortly down the page is an animated video. Basically, our alveoli are filled with small amounts of water. The water tension causes the sac to collapse on itself, the same way freeze pop wrappers do when they're emptied. This makes it very difficult to fill them with air. The foam found in cow and pig lungs has an unusual shape (two-tailed tadpole) that breaks the water tension and allows air to flow into the alveoli
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:34 PM on April 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Is cow lung foam why I'm alive today?

I was in med school and residency in the 1980s, and the use of surfactant was very much experimental, at least in the US. Good protocols were still being developed; you could very well have been part of a trial but most likely did not receive surfactant. Here is a trial from 1994 comparing bovine and synthetic surfactant, for example.
posted by TedW at 2:26 PM on April 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

That whole article and not one mention of Dr Mary Ellen Avery? Really patchy reporting, nothing on the economics of the stuff, all one company's puff and not a round up.

I had to inject myself all pregnancy and have just avoided being put back on it, yay!, with literal cow snot - heparin. It worked out unsubsidized to about a cup cost $25,000.

It's rat poison and cow snot keeping me alive these days, thanks pharma, and the surfactant was amazing in the NICU, thanks Dr Avery.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:45 PM on April 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I read this article last year, and the part that has stayed with me was how the workers (at a different worksite) initially treated the man who was there to explore getting the surfactant, when they thought he was an inspector from his lab coat.

It nicely illustrates how journalism works, vs. how communication works. As...does this thread.
posted by Baeria at 8:27 AM on April 7, 2019

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