Karl Deisseroth’s lab at Stanford University continues to come out with amazing new uses for optogenetics, a technique developed in the lab that we’ve been following for a few years now (see flashbacks below).
This time, a gene coding for a light sensitive protein was inserted into DNA of cardiac cells to make them contract when light was shone on them. The technique may herald a new age of light-based pacemakers. But that, of course, depends on patients willing to undergo gene therapy and other uncertainties intrinsic to any new technology.
Some details from a Stanford press release:
To create the light-responsive heart cells, the researchers first inserted DNA encoding a light-sensitive protein called channelrhodopsin-2, or ChR2, into human embryonic stem cells. ChR2 controls the flow of electrically charged ions into the cell. For heart cells, the primary ion is sodium, which initiates an electrochemical cascade that causes the cell to contract. They then transformed the optogenetically engineered stem cells into cardiomyocytes unlike any others — those that respond to light.
Here’s video of cardiac cells reacting to light signals:
Abstract in Biophysical Journal: Multiscale Computational Models for Optogenetic Control of Cardiac Function
Flashbacks: Optogenetics Pinpoint Brain Areas That Control Anxiety; Pentagon Seeks to Repair Brains with Optogenetic Implants; Fiber Optics Activate Neurons, Axons to Answer Parkinson’s Questions; Scientists Optically Deconstruct Parkinsonian Neural Circuitry
Hat tip: Gizmag…