Monitoring contractility in cardiac tissue with cellular resolution using biointegrated microlasers

Marcel Schubert (Lead / Corresponding author), Lewis Woolfson, Isla R. M. Barnard, Amy M. Dorward, Becky Casement, Andrew Morton, Gavin B. Robertson, Paul L. Appleton, Gareth B. Miles, Carl S. Tucker, Samantha J. Pitt, Malte C. Gather

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)
186 Downloads (Pure)


The contractility of cardiac cells is a key parameter that describes the biomechanical characteristics of the beating heart, but functional monitoring of three-dimensional cardiac tissue with single-cell resolution remains a major challenge. Here, we introduce microscopic whispering-gallery-mode lasers into cardiac cells to realize all-optical recording of transient cardiac contraction profiles with cellular resolution. The brilliant emission and high spectral sensitivity of microlasers to local changes in refractive index enable long-term tracking of individual cardiac cells, monitoring of drug administration, accurate measurements of organ-scale contractility in live zebrafish, and robust contractility sensing through hundreds of micrometres of rat heart tissue. Our study reveals changes in sarcomeric protein density as an underlying factor to cardiac contraction. More broadly, the use of novel micro- and nanoscopic lasers as non-invasive, biointegrated optical sensors brings new opportunities to monitor a wide range of physiological parameters with cellular resolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)452-458
Number of pages7
JournalNature Photonics
Issue number7
Early online date15 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Biophotonics
  • Biophysics
  • Imaging and sensing
  • Microscopy
  • Optical spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


Dive into the research topics of 'Monitoring contractility in cardiac tissue with cellular resolution using biointegrated microlasers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this