Dr. Emilia Entcheva’s laboratory (the Cardiac Optogenetics & Optical Imaging Laboratory) combines biophotonics tools with human stem-cell-derived cardiomyocyte technology and gene editing approaches to aid the advancement of personalized medicine.
The lab’s work is funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. For example, they recently received a $2 million collaborative research award from the NSF’s Emergent Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) program to develop opto-epigenetic control tools for human heart cells, with MGH/Harvard, Georgia Tech and the Cancer Center at GW. Another recent collaborative project funded by a $2.8 million NIH award is to develop high-throughput all-optical technology for chronic monitoring and control of human stem-cell-derived heart cells. The lab combines optogenetics (the use of light for the precise interrogation and control of cells and tissues), on-demand oxygenation with perfluorocarbons, microfluidics, optical instrumentation and control, and transcriptomics analysis to help improve the maturity of engineered human heart tissues and their use in drug-screening applications.
Overall, their research relies on both experimental and computational approaches to define the biophysical limits of and develop the technological innovations needed for a fundamentally new highly-parallel framework for all-optical cardiac electrophysiology in vitro and in vivo. They use lab-on-a-chip platforms, single primary or stem-cell-derived cardiomyocytes and engineered tissues. They apply their technology to study cell-cell communication and control of spatiotemporal phenomena like cardiac arrhythmias, to improve cardiotoxicity testing and drug screening.