In a project which in May 2010 received NIH R01 funding, we study the impact of far red/near infrared light (670 nm) on the heart and mitochondria during cardiac ischemia and reperfusion injury. Exposure of the ischemic heart with a LED light source at the time of reperfusion turns out to reduce injury. Mitochondria may play a crucial role in the mechanism behind this phenomenon. In addition, nitric oxide from unconventional sources such as myoglobin or hemoglobin is involved. Projects are performed in collaboration with investigators from the Anesthesiology, the Pharmacology and Toxicology, the Physiology and the Biophysics department.
While the cardioprotective strategies we are studying are extremely powerful in healthy, young animals, diseases such as diabetes diminish their efficacy and limit clinical applicability. Therefore, in collaboration the MCW Human and Molecular Genetics center we examine a rat model of diabetes with mutations in the mitochondrial DNA, which produces a diabetic phenotype as a background for evaluating cardioprotective mechanisms. Interestingly, near infrared light still protects against cardiac ischemia and reperfusion injury during diabetes.