Controlling heart beats with lasers

A technique for regulating the tempo of heartbeats with short flashes of light could lead to a less intrusive type of pacemaker, say researchers in the US. A team led by Andrew Rollins at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, US, has shown for the first time how the beating heart within the body of an embryonic quail can be synchronized with pulses of infrared laser light.

The door to such devices was opened in 2008 when extremely short femtosecond pulses from a Ti:sapphire laser were able to regulate the activity of small groups of cardiomyocytes, the specialized cells in cardiac muscle that contract in unison to create a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the price was possible damage to the cells in the process.

In the new research, Rollins’ group took its cue from a study showing how pulsed infrared light could influence a cell’s “action potential”, the name given to rapid changes in potential difference within a cell, which is thought to be the first step towards muscle contraction. These effects were seen at exposures well below the damage threshold.

Read more here Controlling heart beats with lasers – physicsworld.com.

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