Gentle beams of light can treat lethal heart disorders
Gentle beams of light could replace harsh electric shocks in patients reeling from a deadly heart rhythm disorder, new research has found.
Current devices deliver pulses of electricity that are extremely painful and can damage heart tissue. Light-based treatment should provide a safer and gentler remedy for patients at high risk of arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat that can cause sudden cardiac death within minutes, the researchers said. “We are working towards optical defibrillation of the heart, where light will be given to a patient who is experiencing cardiac arrest, and we will be able to restore the normal functioning of the heart in a gentle and painless manner,” said one of the researchers Natalia Trayanova, Professor at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. To move the new heart treatment closer to reality, the scientists at Johns Hopkins and Germany’s University of Bonn focused on two different types of research. The Bonn team conducted tests on beating mouse hearts whose cells had been genetically engineered to express proteins that react to light and alter electrical activity within the organ. When the researchers triggered ventricular fibrillation in a mouse heart, a light pulse of one second applied to the heart was enough to restore normal rhythm. “This is a very important result,” one of the lead authors of the study Tobias Bruegmann from the University of Bonn said. “It shows for the first time experimentally that light can be used for defibrillation of cardiac arrhythmia,” Bruegmann noted.