A research team from the University of Bonn has succeeded for the first time in using light stimuli1
to stop life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia in mouse hearts. Furthermore, as shown in computer simulations at Johns Hopkins University, this technique could also be used successfully for human hearts. The study opens up a whole new approach to the development of implantable optical defibrillators, in which the strong electrical impulses of conventional defibrillators are replaced by gentler, pain-free light impulses. The Journal of Clinical Investigation2
has now published the results. Ventricular fibrillation! When the heart muscle races and no longer contracts in an orderly fashion, sudden death often follows due to the lack of blood circulation. In such an emergency, a defibrillator helps to restore normal heart activity by means of intense electrical shocks. In patients with a known risk for these arrhythmia, the prophylactic3
implantation of a defibrillator is the treatment of choice. If ventricular fibrillation is detected, a pulse of electricity is automatically generated, which normalizes the excitation of the heart muscle and saves the person's life.
"When an implanted defibrillator is triggered, which unfortunately can also happen because of false detection of arrhythmia, it is always a very traumatic event for the patient", says the head of the study, Junior-Professor Philipp Sasse of the Institute of Physiology4
I at the University of Bonn. "The strong electrical shock is very painful and can even damage the heart further". Therefore, Professor Sasse's team investigated the principles for a pain-free, gentler alternative. As the scientists have now shown, ventricular fibrillation can be stopped by optical defibrillation.