Development of novel optogenetic switches
The main aim of this project is to develop non-invasive tools for future application in basic science and medicine. Using genetically engineered fusion proteins consisting of subunits of voltage-gated sodium channels and of the light-sensitive cation channel Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) we are able to elicit action potentials (APs) in normally unexcitable Xenopus oocytes and HEK293 cells by short blue-light flashes. This optogenetic method offers the possibility to prove basic questions regarding the effect of individual ion fluxes on the AP shape. Moreover, it allows us to study the AP-prolonging impact of naturally occurring ion channel mutations, associated with life-threatening arrhythmias, and the therapeutic potential of various antiarrhythmic drugs. Future research is aimed at transferring our novel optical switches to stems cells and cardiomyocytes.