For the Faint-Hearted: Scientists Could Soon Control Us With Lasers

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

A team of researchers has managed to use light to control the hearts of fruit flies, and the breakthrough could have major repercussions in the world of cardiology.

After using optogenetics – a process whereby cells are manipulated into producing light-sensitive proteins – the group was able to use laser pulses to essentially make the flies’ hearts beat on command. It sounds frighteningly powerful, but could eventually help doctors understand more about serious heart conditions.

“This provides a great potential for developing a new class of experiments in developmental cardiology to understand arrhythmia mechanisms and to develop new therapeutic strategies for various cardiac disorders,” reads the paper. “Moreover, the ability to noninvasively pace the heart using optogenetic tools may, in the future, form the basis for a new generation of light-driven cardiac pacemakers and muscle actuators in larger animal models.”

Optogenetics is an extremely exciting field, and has already been used to combat pain and even control brains. Let’s hope we use it for good, rather than evil.

Image credit: klis via Flickr