Light could replace electric jolts to restore healthy heartbeats

Washington, Aug 29 (ANI): When a beating heart slips into an irregular, life-threatening rhythm, delivering a burst of electric current from a pacemaker or defibrillator is the treatment most commonly known.

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.

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 said that 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," the project's supervisor, Natalia Trayanova, the Murray B. Sachs Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins, said.

"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," she said.

The research is published online in the journal Nature Communications. (ANI)