Monday, September 27, 2010

Optical Pacemakers: A Breakthrough

A recent breakthrough could save the lives of thousands of newborns suffering from heart conditions. Researchers have successfully used an optical pacemaker to assist the beat of a newborn quail's heart.
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Optical Pacemakers Could Hold Key to Affecting Embryonic Heart Development

Dave Greenfield | Date: 09-24-10



One of the greatest medical inventions of the 20th century was the pacemaker. Pacemakers have helped save the lives of countless adults suffering from extreme heart conditions. They keep the pace of the heart at a steady beat when it is unable to do so on its own.


However, the average pacemaker is nearly impossible to use on smaller, underdeveloped hearts such as those of premature babies. Operating on premature babies is extremely dangerous and often results in severe complications. As a result, scientists and research companies are continually working on perfecting the pacemaker in order to create a less-invasive way to affect embryonic heart development and preserve the life of premature babies.



A pacemaker was successfully used on the heart of a 40-hour-old quail (source: Jenkins et. al, Nature Photonics).
Recently, a small team of researchers achieved an impressive breakthrough by pacing the embryonic heart of a quail using an optical laser. The quail was only 40 hours old, and the embryonic heart was less than 2 millimeters long.



Without having to operate or come in direct contact with any organ, the researchers were able to send pulses to the quail's heart using a series of infrared lights. The quail's heart was paced successfully, and the published study recently appeared online in Nature Photonics.


Despite its early stages of development, this breakthrough has the potential to change the way prenatal doctors treat babies who are born prematurely and who suffer from severe heart conditions. It provides both doctors and parents with a workable option that can be achieved without putting the embryonic heart at risk. As it stands now, an "optical pacemaker" is an effective and safe way to keep the heart beating and has been proven to work on embryonic chick hearts.


While the lasting effects are still unknown and the concept of an "optical pacemaker" is still under development, it's a positive step in the direction of understanding the embryonic heart.


From Smarter Technology; source article is below:
Optical Pacemakers Could Hold Key to Affecting Embryonic Heart Development
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