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Green algae make oxygen in response to light – inject them into oxygen-short bodies!

08 November 2021

Algae-powered Brain

The heart of this tadpole is being injected with photosynthetic green algae that can be seen pumping through the animal’s arteries. Yes, scientists really are injecting plant life into frogs and, yes, it might be the wackiest experiment ever. But, there’s method in this apparent madness because, in response to light, the algae make oxygen that can keep the frog’s brain functioning even when environmental oxygen is low. To adapt such a strategy to humans would require not only the algae to be made safe enough to prevent deadly blood vessel blockages or immune reactions, but also the ability to illuminate tissues deep in the body. As such, it's unlikely to be used anytime soon to treat heart attacks, stroke, COVID, or other conditions causing hypoxia. While researchers work through these sizeable wrinkles, however, the little green cells might be useful for prolonging viability of tissues and organs in culture.

Written by Ruth Williams

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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