Photosynthetic Bacteria for Preventing Heart Attacks

Clinical Trials & Research

Cardiovascular diseases are currently the leading cause of mortality worldwide. A group of researchers led by Jeffrey Cohen introduced a new method of preventing heart attacks using photosynthetic bacteria.


According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of mortality worldwide. Different strategies are being studied to improve the medical management of cardiovascular diseases and reduce mortality rates caused by various conditions.

In an article published in Science Advances, a group of researchers led by Jeffrey Cohen introduced a new system that uses photosynthetic bacteria (Synechococcuselongatus) to prevent heart attacks. Synechococcuselongatusis a photosynthetic bacterium which uses light instead of blood as a source of energy. The researchers hypothesized that this bacterium can be used in vivo to consume carbon dioxide and provide oxygen to heart cells, thereby preventing heart attacks. Viable cardiac cells from 1-3 day-old neonate rats were isolated and inoculated with S.elongatus. Culture proliferation assays were done to determine cellular metabolism under normal oxygen levels, low oxygen levels with adequate light, and low oxygen levels without the light source. To determine the activity of S. elongatus in vivo, the left anterior descending artery was occluded to induce a heart attack in a rat model. The rats were then randomized to either receive an injection containing S.elongatus in the dark, S.elongatuswith adequate light source, or a placebo containing phosphate-buffered saline. Oxygen tension was measured immediately after occlusion of the artery and at 10 and 20 minutes post injection. Thermal imaging was also used to determine the metabolic activity of heart cells after injection.

The results show that S.elongatuscan co-exist with mammalian tissues in vitro(in a dish) and has increased activity under low oxygen levels with adequate light supply, suggesting that the bacterium can produce oxygen and help offset the stress experienced by the cells in a low-oxygen environment. The in vivo experiments showed that the rats who received injections with S. elongatus in light had a 25-fold increase in oxygenation levels compared to the rats receiving injections of saline-only or S. elongatus in the dark. The metabolic activity of the heart cells was also higher in the S. elongatus group, thereby improving left ventricular function during periods of ischemia. Overall, treatment withS.elongatus can improve oxygenation status and cardiac activity during low oxygen states and has a promising potential for preventing heart attacks. However, this treatment strategy is still in an early stage of development and additional research is necessary before it can advance to clinical trials.


Written By: Karla Sevilla



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