Science & Technology

German scientists harness the power of photosynthesis for a new way to “breath”

The injected green algae (green) are in the blood vessels (magenta) like pearl threads. Credit: Özuguretal. / iScience

Photosynthetic algae injected into the blood vessels of tadpoles supply oxygen to the brain.

Frogs live a dual life in water and on land, and have many breathing techniques throughout their lives through their gills, lungs, and skin. Now, German scientists have developed another way for tadpoles to “breath” by introducing algae into the bloodstream and supplying oxygen.The developed method was presented in the journal on October 13th. iScienceIt provided enough oxygen to effectively rescue the neurons in the deprived tadpole brain.

“Algae actually produced so much oxygen that we were able to revive nerve cells,” says Hans Straka, senior author at Ludwig Maximilian University Munich. “To many, it sounds like a science fiction novel, but after all, it’s just the right combination of biological schemes and principles.”

Straka was studying oxygen consumption in the brains of Xenopus tadpoles (Xenopus laevis)Xenopus laevisWhen a lunch conversation with a botanist sparked the idea of ​​combining plant physiology and neuroscience: it harnesses the power of photosynthesis to oxygenate nerve cells. The idea didn’t seem to be exaggerated. In nature, algae live in harmony with sponges, corals and sea anemones, providing oxygen and even nutrients. What about vertebrates like frogs?

When a German researcher injects green algae into the beating tadpole heart, the translucent animal veins gradually turn green. When illuminated, algae can produce oxygen. Credit: Özuguretal. / iScience

To explore the possibilities, the team injected green algae (Chlamydomonas renhardtii) Or cyanobacteria (Synechocystis) In the heart of tadpoles. With each heartbeat, the algae inch through the blood vessels and eventually reach the brain, turning the translucent tadpoles into a bright green color. When these tadpoles were exposed to light, both algae began to pump oxygen to nearby cells.

After distributing the algae to the brain, researchers isolated the tadpole’s head and placed it in an oxygen bubble bath containing essential nutrients that maintain cell function, allowing the team to monitor neural activity and oxygen levels. When the researchers ran out of oxygen from the bath, the nerves stopped firing and became silent. However, when the tadpole’s head was illuminated, neural activity resumed within 15 to 20 minutes. This is about twice as fast as oxygenating the bath without the use of algae. The revived nerves also functioned as well as or better than before oxygen depletion, demonstrating that the researcher’s method was quick and efficient.

“We succeeded in demonstrating the principles this way, which was surprisingly reliable, robust, and a beautiful approach to my eyes,” says Straka. “Working in principle does not mean that it can be applied in the end, but it is the first step in starting other research.”

Researchers believe that their findings may one day lead to new treatments for conditions caused by stroke and oxygen-deficient environments such as water and highlands, but algae prepare to enter our blood circulation. Is not done. The team’s next step is to see if the infused algae can survive in the live tadpoles and continue oxygen production without causing an immune response that disrupts the animal.

Straka also envisions his work that benefits isolated tissues and other laboratories dealing with organoids. The introduction of oxygen-producing algae may help these tissues thrive and increase survival, reducing the need for live animals for experimentation.

“Exploring requires new ideas and new concepts. This is one way to drive science,” says Straka. “If you think through with an open mind, you can suddenly see all the possibilities from one idea.”

Reference: “Green Oxygen Power Plant in the Brain Saves Nervous Activity” by Susan Osgur, Myra N. Chavez, Rosario Sanchez Gonzalez, Lars Kuntz, Jerck Nickelsen, Hans Straka, October 2021 The 13th iScience..
DOI: 10.1016 / j.isci.2021.103158

This work was supported by the German Science Foundation, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the Munich Center for Neural Science.

German scientists harness the power of photosynthesis for a new way to “breath” German scientists harness the power of photosynthesis for a new way to “breath”

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