New heart attack treatment uses photosynthetic bacteria to make oxygen | Science News

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New heart attack treatment uses photosynthetic bacteria to make oxygen

Cyanobacteria lessened damage to rat hearts deprived of blood supply

By
2:06pm, June 14, 2017
photosynthetic bacteria

LIGHT HEARTED  When exposed to light, photosynthetic bacteria (green) make oxygen that can keep rat heart cells (red, shown here growing in a lab dish) alive after a heart attack.

Acting like miniature trees that soak up sunlight and release oxygen, photosynthetic bacteria injected into the heart may lighten the damage from heart attacks, a new study in rats suggests.

When researchers injected the bacteria into rats’ hearts, the microbes restored oxygen to heart tissue after blood supply was cut off as in a heart attack, researchers at Stanford University report June 14 in Science Advances.

“It’s really out of the box,” says Himadri Pakrasi, a systems biologist at Washington University in St. Louis who was not involved in the research. “It reads like science fiction to me, but it’s fantastic if it works.”

The organism, called Synechococcus elongatus, has been used recently to produce biofuels, but this may be the first time the cyanobacteria have ever been used in a medical setting, he says.

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