The heart may survive without oxygen, new study shows

In a new study, researchers found that an embryonic living heart can be programmed to survive the effects of a low oxygen environment in later life.

This can explain why turtles can uniquely survive up to 6 months without oxygen.

The team also found it’s the exposure to low levels of oxygen during embryonic development which programs the animals’ hearts to be more resilient to what is known as hypoxia for the rest of their lives.

They hope the finding could one day be translated into treatments which alleviate damage to the heart caused by hypoxia.

The research was conducted by a team from the University of Manchester and the University of North Texas.

Hypoxia is a condition in which the body or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level.

The condition occurs during a heart attack and can also damage a heart during transplant surgery.

Research has shown that exposure to hypoxia during development can cause changes to the genome that can turn genes on or off.

This is key to the remarkable ability of the turtle heart cells to tolerate zero oxygen.

In the new study, the team focused on the heart, rather than other organs in the body, as it is one of the organs most at risk of damage from hypoxia.

They isolated heart muscle cells from juvenile turtles which lived as embryos in either normal levels of Oxygen at – 21% O2 – or half the levels of Oxygen 10%.

The procedure mimicked what happens in nature: eggs at the bottom of turtles’ nests are more exposed to hypoxia.

They subjected the juvenile turtles to lower levels of oxygen while measuring intracellular Calcium, pH, and reactive oxygen species.

Reactive oxygen species is a molecule that can become toxic when tissue reoxygenates too quickly.

They showed that early exposure to hypoxia in these animals both could protect their hearts from damage and could allow them to contract normally in the complete absence of O2.

They hope the finding could help develop drugs that can switch on tolerance to low oxygen environments in human hearts.

A drug which is able to protect the human heart from oxygen deprivation would be very beneficial.

The lead authors of the study are Dr. Ilan Ruhr and Dr. Gina Galli from The University of Manchester.

The study is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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