Optical pacing of the embryonic heart

Nat Photonics. 2010 Aug 15;4:623-626. doi: 10.1038/nphoton.2010.166.


Light has been used to noninvasively alter the excitability of both neural and cardiac tissue 1-10. Recently, pulsed laser light has been shown to be capable of eliciting action potentials in peripheral nerves and in cultured cardiomyocytes 7-10. Here, we demonstrate for the first time optical pacing (OP) of an intact heart in vivo. Pulsed 1.875 μm infrared laser light was employed to lock the heart rate to the pulse frequency of the laser. A laser Doppler velocimetry (LDV) signal was used to verify the pacing. At low radiant exposures, embryonic quail hearts were reliably paced in vivo without detectable damage to the tissue, indicating that OP has great potential as a tool to study embryonic cardiac dynamics and development. In particular, OP can be utilized to control the heart rate, and thereby alter stresses and mechanically transduced signaling.