Forget CPR, aspirin and blood clot busters – treating a heart attack victim could be as simple as exposing them to light.
Doctors say strong light or even just daylight could cut the risk of having a heart attack or suffering permanent damage after having one.
They say that heart attack victims could recover quicker in hospital simply by being exposed to daylight.
Experts say the answer lies in the body’s clock, or circadian rhythm, that is linked to light and dark.
The circadian clock is regulated by proteins in the brain. But the same proteins are also in the heart.
Heart expert Tobias Eckle, from the University of Colorado, Denver, and colleagues found that one of the proteins link to the body’s clock – called Period 2 – plays a vital role in fending off damage from a heart attack.
During a heart attack, little or no oxygen reaches the heart. Without oxygen, the heart has to switch from its usual fuel – fat – to glucose. Without that change in heart metabolism, cells die and the heart is damaged.
The study showed that the Period 2 protein is vital for that change in fuel, from fat to glucose, and therefore could make heart metabolism more efficient.
The team found that strong daylight activated Period 2 in animals and cut damage from a heart attack.
Professor Eckle said: ‘The study suggests that strong light, or even just daylight, might ease the risk of having a heart attack or suffering damage from one.
‘For patients, this could mean that daylight exposure inside of the hospital could reduce the damage that is caused by a heart attack.’
The research is published in the science journal Nature Medicine.
Future studies will try to understand how light is able to change heart metabolism in humans and how this could be used to treat heart attacks in patients.