Science 3 min read

Why Intense Light Can Protect Cardiovascular Health

Ravil Sayfullin /

Ravil Sayfullin /

Researchers have long known that light plays a significant role in cardiovascular health, but the process had always remained a mystery – until now. According to a recent paper in the journal Cell Reports, it has less to do with the light duration and more to do with the intensity.

In the paper, the researchers at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus described how intense light amplifies a specific gene, which bolsters the blood vessels and protects the body against heart attacks.

According to the senior author of the study and professor of anesthesiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Tobias Eckle, MD, Ph.D.:

“We already knew that intense light could protect against heart attacks, but now we have found the mechanism behind it.”

In a test, the researchers noted that mice kept under intense light conditions for one week had a “robustly enhanced cardioprotection.” As a result of this exposure, the rodents also experienced reduced tissue damage following a heart attack.

Scientists now believe that humans could benefit from similar light exposure therapy. In other words, it could be an easy method to boost our cardiovascular health.

They just needed to figure out the mechanism first. And it begins with the gene expressed in a circadian pattern in the part of the brain that controls circadian rhythm, the PER2 gene.

Boosting Cardiovascular Health Using Intense Light

For this part of the study, the researchers developed a strategy to target and manipulate the PER2 gene’s function.

On exposure to intense light, the gene becomes amplified. By effect, the cardiovascular tissues became protected against low oxygen conditions, such as myocardial ischemia.

The researchers discovered that exposure to intense light also increases cardiac adenosine in the mice, a chemical that plays a vital role in blood flow regulation. However, since visual light perception is necessary to enjoy the cardiac protection, blind mice didn’t benefit from light therapy.

During the next stage of the study, the researchers explored whether intense light has a similar effect in healthy humans. So, they exposed volunteers to 30 minutes of intense light – about 10,000 LUX – for five consecutive days.

As recorded in the mice, the PER2 level increased in the human participants as well. There was also a significant reduction in Plasma triglycerides, a surrogate form insulin sensitivity, and carbohydrates metabolism.

In other words, the intense light treatment caused an overall improvement in metabolism.

As researchers refine the technique, it could allow health professionals to treat and prevent low oxygen conditions such as myocardial ischemia on a molecular scale in the future. Surgeons could also apply light therapy a week before surgery to increase patients’ cardioprotection.

Eckel concluded:

“Drugs could also be developed that offer similar protections based on these findings. However, future studies in humans will be necessary to understand the impact of intense light therapy and its potential for cardioprotection.”

Read More: New Alligator Heart Study Could Help Treat Cardiomyopathy

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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