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Can Light Therapy Treat Atrial Fibrillation?

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New research published in the Journal of Internal Medicine demonstrates that optogenetics—which uses light-sensitive proteins to control the activity of targeted cells—is a promising shock-free approach to treating atrial fibrillation (AF), or an irregular, often rapid heart rate, for immediate restoration of regular rhythm.

Current treatments for AF—including medications and shocks to restore a regular heart rhythm—come with low success rates and/or serious side effects. In this new study, rats’ hearts were optogenetically modified to express light-gated ion channels. After AF was induced, the animals’ chests were illuminated resulting in acute restoration of regulation rhythm. This shows that sufficient light penetrated the chest wall, which suggests that full penetration of the human atrial wall may be feasible as well, if deemed necessary for clinical translation.

“Shock-free cardioversion of AF would allow restoration of regular rhythm at any place and time, which may improve the prognosis and quality of life of patients suffering from AF. We hope that our paper will contribute to the realization of this much desired option in clinical practice,” said corresponding author Daniël A. Pijnappels, PhD, of Leiden University Medical Center, in The Netherlands.

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Additional Information
The information contained in this release is protected by copyright. Please include journal attribution in all coverage. For more information or to obtain a PDF of any study, please contact: Sara Henning-Stout, [email protected].

About the Journal
JIM – The Journal of Internal Medicine is an international peer-reviewed scientific journal in continuous publication since 1863. JIM publishes original work in clinical science from bench to bedside covering a broad field of internal medicine and its subspecialties. JIM features original articles, reviews, brief reports and research letters.

About Wiley
Wiley is one of the world’s largest publishers and a global leader in scientific research and career-connected education. Founded in 1807, Wiley enables discovery, powers education, and shapes workforces. Through its industry-leading content, digital platforms, and knowledge networks, the company delivers on its timeless mission to unlock human potential. Visit us at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.


Journal of Internal Medicine

Article Title

Light transmittance in human atrial tissue and transthoracic illumination in rats support translatability of optogenetic cardioversion of atrial fibrillation

Article Publication Date


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Schedule15 Jun 2024