Digital photocontrol of the network of live excitable cells
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Recent development of tissue engineering techniques allows creating and maintaining almost indefinitely networks of excitable cells with desired architecture. We coupled the network of live excitable cardiac cells with a common computer by sensitizing them to light, projecting a light pattern on the layer of cells, and monitoring excitation with the aid of fluorescent probes (optical mapping). As a sensitizing substance we used azobenzene trimethylammonium bromide (AzoTAB). This substance undergoes cis-trans-photoisomerization and trans-isomer of AzoTAB inhibits excitation in the cardiac cells, while cis-isomer does not. AzoTAB-mediated sensitization allows, thus, reversible and dynamic control of the excitation waves through the entire cardiomyocyte network either uniformly, or in a preferred spatial pattern. Technically, it was achieved by coupling a common digital projector with a macroview microscope and using computer graphic software for creating the projected pattern of conducting pathways. This approach allows real time interactive photocontrol of the heart tissue.
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