When a beating heart slips into an irregular, life-threatening rhythm, the treatment is well known: deliver a burst of electric current from a pacemaker or defibrillator.
But because the electricity itself can cause pain, tissue damage and other serious side-effects, a Johns Hopkins-led research team wants to replace these jolts with a kinder, gentler remedy: light.
In a paper published Aug. 28 in the online journal Nature Communications, five biomedical engineers from Johns Hopkins and Stony Brook universities described their plan to use biological lab data and an intricate computer model to devise a better way to heal ailing hearts. Other scientists are already using light-sensitive cells to control certain activities in the brain. The Johns Hopkins-Stony Brook researchers say they plan to give this technique a cardiac twist so that doctors in the near future will be able to use low-energy light to solve serious heart problems such as arrhythmia.
“Applying electricity to the heart has its drawbacks,” said the project’s supervisor, Natalia Trayanova, the Murray B. Sachs Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins. “When we use a defibrillator, it’s like blasting open a door because we don’t have the key. It applies too much force and too little finesse. We want to control this treatment in a more intelligent way. We think it’s possible to use light to reshape the behavior of the heart without blasting it.”
To achieve this, Trayanova’s team is diving into the field of optogenetics, which is only about a decade old. Pioneered by scientists at Stanford, optogenetics refers to the insertion of light-responsive proteins called opsins into cells. When exposed to light, these proteins become tiny portals within the target cells, allowing a stream of ions—an electric charge—to pass through. Early researchers have begun using this tactic to control the bioelectric behavior of certain brain cells, forming a first step toward treating psychiatric disorders with light.
In the Nature Communications paper, the researchers reported that they had successfully tested this same technique on a heart—one that “beats” inside a computer. Trayanova has spent many years developing highly detailed computer models of the heart that can simulate cardiac behavior from the molecular and cellular levels all the way up to that of the heart as a whole. At Johns Hopkins, she directs the Computational Cardiology Lab within the Institute for Computational Medicine.
As detailed in the journal article, the Johns Hopkins computer model for treating the heart with light incorporates biological data from the Stony Brook lab of Emilia Entcheva, an associate professor of biomedical engineering. The Stony Brook collaborators are working on techniques to make heart tissue light-sensitive by inserting opsins into some cells. They also will test how these cells respond when illuminated. “Experiments from this lab generated the data we used to build our computer model for this project,” Trayanova said. “As the Stony Brook lab generates new data, we will use it to refine our model.”
In Trayanova’s own lab, her team members will use this model to conduct virtual experiments. They will try to determine how to position and control the light-sensitive cells to help the heart maintain a healthy rhythm and pumping activity. They will also try to gauge how much light is needed to activate the healing process. The overall goal is to use the computer model to push the research closer to the day when doctors can begin treating their heart patients with gentle light beams. The researchers say it could happen within a decade.
The Latest on: Optogenetics
- Cancer Immunotherapy: The Optogenetics Angle on October 1, 2018 at 6:01 am
This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to two pioneers of cancer immunotherapy, James P. Allison of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, USA, and Tasuku Honjo, Kyoto University. The laurea... […]
- SfN to Host Virtual Conference on Next Generation Optogenetics September 20 on September 6, 2018 at 7:28 am
WASHINGTON--(Business Wire)--The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is hosting a virtual conference exploring the power and applications of optogenetics and drawing together leading researchers in the fie... […]
- Middle East and Africa Optogenetics Market to reach a market value of USD $ 3.9 Million by 2023 on August 13, 2018 at 8:52 am
Optogenetics is a biological technique which includes the utilization of light to control cells in living tissue, ordinarily neurons, which have been hereditarily altered to express light-sensitive io... […]
- Using optogenetics to program yeast to produce more isobutanol on March 22, 2018 at 7:13 am
Reversible OptoEXP system based on VP16–EL222 that is sensitive to 450 nm light. hν indicates the energy of photons. HTH, helix–turn–helix DNA-binding domain. Credit: Nature (2018). DOI: 10.1038/natur... […]
- Global Optogenetics Market - Forecast to Reach $50.3 Million by 2022 - Research and Markets on November 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm
The "Global Optogenetics Market - Industry Trends and Updates (2016-2022)" report has been added to Research and Markets' offering. The global optogenetics market was USD 19.36 million in 2016 and is ... […]
- One-Step Optogenetics for Hacking the Nervous System on February 20, 2017 at 8:00 am
Engineers have taken one of biotech’s hottest tools—optogenetics—and made it better. The 12-year-old technique, which enables scientists to control brain cells with light, typically requires a multi-s... […]
- Lab creates open-source optogenetics hardware, software on November 7, 2016 at 7:19 am
Rice University’s low-cost, open-source Light Plate Apparatus can easily be used by nonengineers and noncomputer programmers and can be assembled by a nonexpert in one day from components costing less ... […]
via Google News and Bing News