There must have been one or two love songs that predicted optogenetic cardiac pacing with words like “you are the light that makes my heart beat.” Now the idea has literally come true thanks to researchers at Israel’s Technion-Institute of Technology who were able to use light pulses in a manner of a cardiac pacemaker to change the beating pattern of a rat heart.
The investigators at Technion introduced a special virus into a rat to make it express the Channelrhodopsin-2 transgene within the ventricular myocardium. And that made the cardiac tissue respond to blue light. A simple strobe machine was then able to get the heart to pace at different rates. While the researchers tested the technique by having different areas of the ventricles be susceptible to light, there’s still a lot of work to be done in pinpointing where the transgene should be activated for optimal and most efficient results. Nevertheless, it looks like the basics of electricity-free pacing that doesn’t require any leads or other devices to actually connect to the heart are already here. Now there’s work to be done to bring this capability into clinical practice in the coming years.
Here’s a video showing a rat heart changing its beat to match the rhythm of the light pulses:
Study in Nature Biotechnology: Optogenetics for in vivo cardiac pacing and resynchronization therapies…