McKelvey School of Engineering

Colored light investigated to control irregular heartbeat noninvasively

In this illustration of the optical coherence tomography system, beams of red light shine on the hearts of fruit flies using parallel imaging, which allows for multiple beams to penetrate many flies simultaneously. The blue and orange represent activation or deactivation of different proteins in the heart. (Image: Amanda Dicks and Anne Robinson in association with InPrint at Washington University in St. Louis.).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $2.1 million four-year grant for cardiac optogenetics research led by Chao Zhou, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering.

Cardiac optogenetics allows researchers to control the opening and closing of ion channels, simulating different kinds of heart conditions, all the way down to cardiac arrest. The research team will be using this technique to help achieve regular beating in fruit fly hearts as part of a broader investigation into new, less damaging pacemaker options.

Zhao will work with Abhinav Diwan, MD, professor of medicine, of cell biology and physiology and of obstetrics and gynecology; Jeanne Nerbonne, PhD, professor of medicine and of developmental biology and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Research; and Kenneth Schechtman, PhD, professor of biostatistics and of medicine, all at Washington University School of Medicine; as well as with researchers from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Read more on the engineering website.