New Bioluminescent Imaging Technique Tracks Oxygen Flow

New bioluminescent imaging technology has produced comprehensive images of oxygen movement in mice’s brains, allowing researchers to investigate forms of hypoxia in the brain, such as oxygen deprivation during stroke or heart attack. The approach uses luminous proteins, chemical cousins of bioluminescent proteins found in fireflies. These proteins are produced by a virus in the form of an enzyme. When the enzyme interacts with a second chemical component, furimazine, the chemical reaction produces light.

The researchers discovered that they can continually monitor changes in oxygen concentration throughout a large section of the brain, providing a more detailed picture of what is happening in real-time. This enables them to discover previously unknown pockets of transient hypoxia, which indicate alterations in blood flow that might cause neurological impairments.

The researchers discovered that specific little parts of the brain would go dark, sometimes for minutes, indicating that the oxygen supply was being cut off. It was due to capillary stalling, when white blood cells momentarily block microvessels, preventing oxygen-carrying red blood cells from passing through. These spots, known as “hypoxic pockets,” were more abundant in mice’s brains when they were resting than when they were busy.

This novel bioluminescent imaging technology allows for the investigation of a variety of disorders connected with hypoxia in the brain, including Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and extended COVID-19, as well as how a sedentary lifestyle, age, hypertension, and other factors contribute to these conditions.

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