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Optical techniques for recording and manipulating cellular electrophysiology have advanced rapidly in just a few decades. These developments allow for the analysis of cardiac cellular dynamics at multiple scales while largely overcoming the drawbacks associated with the use of electrodes. The recent advent of optogenetics opens up new possibilities for regional and tissue-level electrophysiological control and hold promise for future novel clinical applications. This article, which emerged from the international NOTICE workshop in 20181, reviews the state-of-the-art optical techniques used for cardiac electrophysiological research and the underlying biophysics. The design and performance of optical reporters and optogenetic actuators are reviewed along with limitations of current probes. The physics of light interaction with cardiac tissue is detailed and associated challenges with the use of optical sensors and actuators are presented. Case studies include the use of fluorescence recovery after photobleaching and super-resolution microscopy to explore the micro-structure of cardiac cells and a review of two photon and light sheet technologies applied to cardiac tissue. The emergence of cardiac optogenetics is reviewed and the current work exploring the potential clinical use of optogenetics is also described. Approaches which combine optogenetic manipulation and optical voltage measurement are discussed, in terms of platforms that allow real-time manipulation of whole heart electrophysiology in open and closed-loop systems to study optimal ways to terminate spiral arrhythmias. The design and operation of optics-based approaches that allow high-throughput cardiac electrophysiological assays is presented. Finally, emerging techniques of photo-acoustic imaging and stress sensors are described along with strategies for future development and establishment of these techniques in mainstream electrophysiological research.

Original publication




Journal article


Frontiers in Physiology

Publication Date