Researchers at the Stanford University in California have for the first time engineered human heart cells that can be paced with light.
In the study, the researchers inserted a gene found in algae into human embryonic stem cells, then made the cells differentiate into heart muscle cells.
The gene produces a light-sensitive protein called channelrhodopsin-2, which allows the cells to be switched on or off using pulses of light.
The technique could one day be used to activate pacemaker cells derived from a person’s own body.
“We would inject these engineered light-sensitive cells into the faulty heart, and pace them remotely with light,” New Scientist quoted co-author Christopher Zarins as saying.