London: CU medical school researchers have revealed that intense light could be used to treat heart attacks.
There are already lots of ways to treat a heart attack – CPR, aspirin, clot-busters and more.
“The study suggests that strong light, or even just daylight, might ease the risk of having a heart attack or suffering damage from one,” said Tobias Eckle, MD, PhD, an associate professor of anesthesiology, cardiology, and cell and developmental biology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
“For patients, this could mean that daylight exposure inside of the hospital could reduce the damage that is caused by a heart attack,” Eckle stated.
What’s the connection between light and a myocardial infarction, known commonly as a heart attack?
The answer lies, perhaps surprisingly, in the circadian rhythm, the body’s clock that is linked to light and dark.
Proteins in the brain regulate the circadian clock. But the proteins are in other organs as well, including the heart.
Eckle and Holger Eltzschig, MD, a CU professor of anesthesiology, found that one of those proteins, called Period 2, plays a crucial role in fending off damage from a heart attack.
During a heart attack, little or no oxygen reaches the heart. Without oxygen, the heart has to switch from its usual fuel – fat – to glucose. Without that change in heart metabolism, cells die and the heart is damaged
And here’s where the circadian rhythm comes in.
The study showed that the Period 2 protein is vital for that change in fuel, from fat to glucose, and therefore could make heart metabolism more efficient. In fact, Strong daylight activated Period 2 in animals and minimized damage from a heart attack.
Future studies will try to understand how light is able to change heart metabolism in humans and how this could be used to treat heart attacks in patients
The findings were recently published in the journal Nature Medicine.