Researchers operate lab-grown heart cells by remote control
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VIDEO: Mouse heart cells grown on graphene beat at a rate controlled by light stimulation (as indicated by a green circle at top left corner). Here, the cells are also engineered… view more 

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Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and their collaborators have developed a technique that allows them to speed up or slow down human heart cells growing in a dish on command — simply by shining a light on them and varying its intensity. The cells are grown on a material called graphene, which converts light into electricity, providing a more realistic environment than standard plastic or glass laboratory dishes.

The method, described in the May 18 issue of Science Advances, could be used for a number of research and clinical applications, including: testing therapeutic drugs in more biologically relevant systems, developing use-specific drugs that are more precise and have fewer systemic effects, and creating better medical devices, such as light-controlled pacemakers.

“When we first got this working in our lab, suddenly we had something like 20 people gathering around, shouting things like ‘Impossible!’ and accusing me of pranking them. We’d never seen anything like this before,” said first author Alex Savchenko, PhD, a

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