[UK, USA] Tiny balls filled with ‘pond scum’ injected into the blood could slash the risk of having a stroke.
The unlikely therapy is being tested in patients with atrial fibrillation; a heart rhythm disorder that increases the risk of a stroke by five times.
Atrial fibrillation affects nearly two million people in Britain and develops when electrical activity in the heart goes haywire and causes the heart to beat in an abnormal rhythm.
The cause is unknown, though high blood pressure, chest infections, an overactive thyroid and too much caffeine or alcohol have been cited as possible triggers.
As the heart no longer beats in a regular fashion, blood can ‘pool’ inside the heart’s left ventricle — the lower chamber, which pumps blood to the body. If a clot breaks away and travels up to the narrow blood vessels that feed the brain, it can cause a blockage and a stroke.
Common treatments for atrial fibrillation include blood-thinner warfarin to stop clots forming and cardioversion, where the heart is shocked back into normal rhythm using electrodes.
A newer technique, ablation, targets the area of heart muscle sending faulty electrical signals.
Doctors insert a flexible tube (catheter) with a probe on the end and burn away damaged muscle cells in the heart’s right atrium — the upper chamber, which sets the heart’s rate.
The catheter is inserted into arteries in the thigh or wrist and fed through the body to the sinoatrial node in the right atrium.
This node produces electrical impulses that set the heart’s rate and rhythm. With atrial fibrillation, impulses go haywire and instead of steady impulses, the heart is bombarded with a rapid stream, producing a fast, chaotic rhythm, causing blood to pool.
One ablation patient in 50 has dangerous bleeding and at least half need repeat treatments. The new therapy could be a one-stop solution for atrial fibrillation patients, particularly if other treatment options have failed and they are at a high risk of stroke.
The treatment uses laser light to target and destroy myocyte cells, which help to generate electrical impulses in the sinoatrial node.
Scientists at the University of Michigan have come up with tiny particles that are absorbed only by myocytes. The particles, made from fat, are filled with liquid derived from spirulina, a form of algae that thrives on stagnant pond surfaces.
Algae liquid absorbs and reacts to light. This is a type of photo-dynamic therapy, where light activates a drug. In a study in rats, particles were injected and, within hours, absorbed by myocytes.
A light emitting probe was aimed at them and, as algae in the myocyte cells absorbed the light, a chemical reaction heated up the cells and destroyed them.
Tests on sheep and rats showed the light destroyed most damaged myocytes in one treatment.
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This animal-based research describes a novel technique for killing the cells responsible for causing the rhythm disturbance while leaving surrounding healthy cells intact.
‘More research is needed to establish if the technique is safe and effective in patients.’
View original article at: New therapy claims algae liquid injected into the blood may slash incident rates