Researchers have found a way to reset a racing heart immediately and automatically by an implanted LED device. It could be the first step toward a pain-free treatment for patients with atrial fibrillation.

A small LED is implanted near the heart. (Credit: Delft University of Technology)

The system detects fast arrhythmias in the atrium of a rat's heart and sends a signal to an LED device placed near the heart. The flash of light from this LED then causes the heart to generate an electric current itself to halt the arrhythmia. This is made possible by using gene therapy to introduce specific light-sensitive proteins into the heart. This restores the heart's normal rhythm immediately and automatically.

One of the things required to reset a racing heart muscle is high light intensity at the correct wavelength, but there is not much space in the body for this. A miniaturized LED lamp that, once it has been implanted, can spread light of sufficient intensity over a relatively wide area.

The bioelectronic defibrillator can stop atrial fibrillation without an electrical shock. In this way, the heart can be reset in a fully automated manner and at any time.

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