A team of researchers from Oxford University (UK) and Stony Brook University (USA) presented a new way to manipulate the electric signals that regulate the heartbeat by light, which has been published in the leading scientific journal Nature Photonics (Nature Photon. 9, 813 (2015)).
This is a breakthrough and could mean a new treatment in cardiac arhythmia, without having the patient to go through the use of pacemakers or defibrillators or even medication, such as beta blockers.
The researchers used thereby ideas from a steady developing and growing field of optogenetics, where genetic modifications are used to alter cells, so that they can be activated by light.
They made the cardiac cells light responsive and used a special programmed light wave to control the speed and the path of the electric signal in the heart tissue.
Although there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome for optogenetics, this research shows the potential genetic therapy combined with light treatment can have.