Around 175,000 heart attacks are diagnosed in the UK each year. They can leave irreparable damage to the heart tissue. Stem cell therapy could one day improve our chances of mending a broken heart but getting grafted tissue to beat in sync with the rest of the heart is a major stumbling block in heart tissue engineering.
Scientists at The University of Nottingham and the Israel Institute of Technology aim to overcome this problem using proteins known as rhodopsins which are extremely sensitive to light.
In Nottingham the research, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the British Council’s BIRAX initiative (1) is being led by Chris Denning, Professor of Stem Cell Biology in the School of Medicine. He said: “We plan to incorporate this new technology into beating heart muscle patches that can eventually be grafted onto damaged hearts. These patches of muscle tissue can then be controlled by a pacemaker that emits light.”
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