Could al­gae help treat heart at­tack pa­tients?

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Some­day, a treat­ment for car­diac pa­tients could be so out­side-the-box that it’s from the swamp—al­gae.

In the af­ter­math of a heart at­tack, your heart needs two things to start re­pair­ing dam­aged tis­sue—oxy­gen and su­gar. Mi­cro­scopic plants such as phy­to­plank­ton and al­gae pro­duce those two things when given sun­light. That got Dr. Joseph Woo, a pro­fes­sor and heart sur­geon at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, think­ing: What if th­ese tiny plants could be used to help our hearts heal them­selves?

In a study pub­lished in Sci­ence Ad­vances, Woo and his team de­scribe how they suc­cess­fully in­jected mi­cro­scopic cyanobac­te­ria grown in a lab into rats’ dam­aged heart tis­sue. Then they turned up the lights to ac­ti­vate pho­to­syn­the­sis in the al­gae. Af­ter 20 min­utes, the rats’ me­tab­o­lism had in­creased in dam­aged ar­eas. Over­all car­diac per­for­mance im­proved af­ter about 45 min­utes.

The team was able to pro­tect the rats from heart fail­ure, and ev­i­dence sug­gests that the oxy­gen and su­gar cre­ated through pho­to­syn­the­sis was en­hanc­ing tis­sue re­pair.

It might seem like an in­fec­tion risk to in­ject liv­ing bac­te­ria into a bod­ily or­gan, but re­searchers didn’t ob­serve any im­mune re­sponse af­ter a week of mon­i­tor­ing and the bac­te­ria dis­ap­peared.

“Maybe that’s the best kind of bac­te­ria,” Woo told Smith­so­, the kind that helps con­trol dam­age and then dis­ap­pears.

The next step will be try­ing the tech­nique on larger an­i­mals.


Al­gae in­jected into a rat’s heart helped im­prove car­diac per­for­mance.

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