Animals structured in opposition to plants are not allowed to develop their oxygen through photosynthesis. As animal body parts require oxygen to generate a huge amount of energy. But a recent study published in iScience has figured out a method to enrich the neurons with oxygen through photosynthesis, and ultimately creating a creature that doesn’t need to breathe.
As reported by The Scientist, to achieve this, scientists injected one of the cyanobacteria or green algae into Xenopus laevis tadpoles which halted the supply and as a result, it stopped brain activity. Animals were then exposed to light due to which microbes made oxygen from CO2, which then restored the neural activity as done in photosynthesis.
Diana Martinez, a neuroscientist at Rowan University in New Jersey in an email to The Scientist wrote that “The author used an easy reproducible experimental way to observe the effects of activation of photosynthetic organisms as a method to directly increase oxygen levels in the brain.” According to Diana, this is a major first step for utilizing natural resources to address pathological impairments.
Hans Straka, a neuroscientist at Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) with a team trying to figure out the quantity of oxygen used in the brain, thus they used a technique in which the head of a tadpole was removed so that it remains alive in a liquid environment for few days that give both oxygen and nutrients. They are figuring out whether it is possible to have such microorganisms that give oxygen to the brain.
Also, a graduate student from Stark’s lab named Suzan Özugur, injected a slurry of cyanobacteria or algae into the heart of a tadpole just after the forelimbs emerged. It is observed that the heart pumped microbes into the whole animal body, vessels including the vasculature of the brain.
Starka’s team found that on illumination the oxygen density in the ventricles of injected animals leveled up. While those animals who didn’t receive injection did not have an increase in oxygen density. When the team decreased oxygen from water, animals swan in and the activities of neurons stopped. But interestingly animals who received injections showed the tendency to resume brain activity on illumination. The light again turned off and brain activity again halted.
An experiment is successful but as per Diana, it is unclear whether this photosynthesis method can be used in conditions where the brain requires more oxygen. Diana says, “The first problem is that Xenopus laevis tadpoles can pass the light through their skin as they are transparent, thus easily activating the photosynthetic machinery to produce oxygen…So in animals having no such body structure may find it difficult to allow light to pass.”
In addition to this, more oxygen can also lead to brain injuries. “Thus controlling the oxygen levels is another issue”, she added.
Starka also accomplished that the research is in its initial stage and requires further observations to get a clear-cut conclusion and utilization of the findings.
“But the potential implications are also just fascinating to speculate about: Can we get away from breathing as a way to keep our brains going?,” said Gettysburg College biologist Ryan Kerney, who didn’t contribute in this study.