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Optical Pacing of Embryonic Heartbeats with Laser Pulses

A research team announced that they have paced embryonic quail hearts with infrared light pulses. Michael Jenkins from the Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering led the research team. The quail hearts used in the experiment were 2 mm long and 40 h old.

The researchers paired an infrared diode laser with an LED for observing the timing of the infrared pulses under the microscope. A fiber source, located about 500µm away from the position of the embryo, emitted the laser pulse. The laser source was trained in an area, measuring 0.3mm wide, around the intake of the tube-shaped, embryonic heart.

The researcher team increased the heart rate to nearly three times of its baseline pacing using the laser pulses. The hearts, paced with laser beam, kept on beating even after the laser beam was stopped. However, the embryonic hearts functioned with a faster rate compared to the original beat. The reason for the faster heartbeats was due to the rise in the calcium ions at the time of the pacing process. Moreover, the research team found that the heart showed no damage.

The researchers stated that optical pacing will open up new experiments in the area of developmental cardiology. They added that the optical pacing might turn out to be an effective tool for examining cardiac tissue engineering, single-cell dynamics, and cardiac electrophysiology. However, laser usage on adult human hearts needs more research on its safety and efficacy, they said.


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