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Elife. 2018 Sep 27;7. pii: e41076. doi: 10.7554/eLife.41076.

Optogenetics enables real-time spatiotemporal control over spiral wave dynamics in an excitable cardiac system.

Author information

Laboratory of Experimental Cardiology, Department of Cardiology, Heart Lung Center, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Gent University, Gent, Belgium.
Laboratory of Computational Biology and Medicine, Ural Federal University, Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Contributed equally


Propagation of non-linear waves is key to the functioning of diverse biological systems. Such waves can organize into spirals, rotating around a core, whose properties determine the overall wave dynamics. Theoretically, manipulation of a spiral wave core should lead to full spatiotemporal control over its dynamics. However, this theory lacks supportive evidence (even at a conceptual level), making it thus a long-standing hypothesis. Here, we propose a new phenomenological concept that involves artificially dragging spiral waves by their cores, to prove the aforementioned hypothesis in silico, with subsequent in vitro validation in optogenetically modified monolayers of rat atrial cardiomyocytes. We thereby connect previously established, but unrelated concepts of spiral wave attraction, anchoring and unpinning to demonstrate that core manipulation, through controlled displacement of heterogeneities in excitable media, allows forced movement of spiral waves along pre-defined trajectories. Consequently, we impose real-time spatiotemporal control over spiral wave dynamics in a biological system.


cardiac arrhythmias; complexity; computational biology; computer modelling; optical mapping; physics of living systems; rat; spiral waves; systems biology

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