Red light beams may help to treat heart attacks

- Nov 15, 2018-

Heart attack is one of the major causes of deaths across several nations. Medical research continues as it finds ways to prevent or reduce the impact of heart attack on people. A research has come out that makes use of light beams as a way to treat heart disorders.

Researchers at the John Hopkins University, USA,and the University of Bonn have been experimenting with the use of light beams in treating heart disorders. They have concluded that beams of red light could be used to restore a normal heartbeat during a heart attack, , which can replace the need for painful electric shocks.
Optical defibrillator

John Hopkins University has been continuously researching the matter in the hope of creating an optical defibrillator, which would restore the normal functioning of the heart with the use of red light. Defibrillators use electronic pulses to return heart function to a normal rate, however, researchers fear that the treatment may damage heart tissue.

The optical defibrillator is based on optogenetics, which are light sensitive proteins. And the idea of using light is to collide with these proteins, and as a result, electrical activity inside the cells will take place.
Light-based treatment

Light-based treatments might bea better alternative for those who have irregular heartbeats or arrhythmia. Two different approaches have been used for the experiment. For the team in Bonn, tests were done on mouse hearts. These hearts were genetically engineered to have light-sensitive proteins in them. These proteins can react to light, as well as electrical activity. The Bonn team has found out that even a second light pulse is enough to restore the heart’s normal rhythm.

The team at John Hopkins University approached this by having a computer-generated scan of a heart that recently had a heart attack and is in danger of arrhythmia.

While the use of light beams has been successful in experiments using mice hearts and through computer simulation, the experiment conducted in Bonnhave tested the technology on the hearts of mice, whose cells had been genetically engineered to produce proteins that could be triggered by blue light. The blue light used has been found out to be not powerful enough if used on human heart.

The research is still at its most basic stage and it may take another 10 years before it could have practical use since implantable optical defibrillators would still have to be developed.