Emilia Entcheva

Headshot of Emilia Entcheva
SEH 5660 | Office Hours: W: 3:00 - 5:00 pm
[email protected]


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.


  • B.S./M.S. Electrical Engineering, Technical University – Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering, The University of Memphis, 1998
  • Postdoctoral, Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, 2000

(full publication list: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=entcheva+e*)

  • Quach, B., T. Krogh-Madsen, E. Entcheva and D. J. Christini. "Light-activated dynamic clamp using iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes." Biophys J. 115(11):2206-2217, 2018. * featured as New and Notable with a commentary.
  • Entcheva, E. Uncovering an electrically heterogeneous cardiomyocyte by FRAP-quantified diffusion in the T-tubules. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115(4): E560-E561, 2018.
  • Klimas, A., G. Ortiz, S. Boggess, E. W. Miller and E. Entcheva. Multimodal on-axis platform for all-optical electrophysiology with near-infrared probes in human stem-cell-derived cardiomyocytes, doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/269258, 2018.
  • Ambrosi CM, Sadananda G, Han JL, and Entcheva E.  Adeno-associated virus mediated gene delivery: Implications for scalable in vitro and in vivo cardiac optogenetic models, doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/183319, 2018.
  • Yu, J., P. M. Boyle, J. C. Williams, N. A. Trayanova and E. Entcheva. OptoGap: an optogenetics-enabled assay for quantification of cell-cell coupling in multicellular cardiac tissue, doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/171397, 2018.
  • Klimas A, Ambrosi CM, Yu J, Williams JC, Bien H, Entcheva E. OptoDyCE as an automated system for high-throughput all-optical dynamic cardiac electrophysiology. Nat Commun. 7:11542. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11542, 2016 (media coverage).
  • Entcheva E and Bub G, All-optical control of cardiac excitation: Combined high-resolution optogenetic actuation and optical mapping.  Journal of Physiology, 594(9):2503-10, 2016.
  • Yu J and Entcheva E, Inscribing optical excitability to non-excitable cardiac cells: viral delivery of optogenetic tools in primary cardiac fibroblasts.  Methods in Molecular Biology, 1408:303-17, 2016.
  • Burton RAB, Klimas A, Ambrosi CM, Tomek J, Corbett A, Entcheva E and Bub G, Optical control of excitation waves in cardiac tissue.  Nature Photonics, 9(12), 813-816, 2015 (media coverage).
  • Ambrosi CM, Boyle PM, Chen K, Trayanova NA and Entcheva E, Optogenetics-enabled assessment of viral gene and cell therapy for restoration of cardiac excitability. Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/srep17350, 2015.
  • Yu J, Chen K, Lucero RV, Ambrosi CM and Entcheva E, Cardiac optogenetics: Enhancement by all-trans-retinal.  Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/srep16542, 2015.
  • Boyle PM, Karathanos TV, Entcheva E and Trayanova NA. Computational modeling of cardiac optogenetics: Methodology overview and review of findings from simulations.  Computers in Biology and Medicine, doi: 10.1016/j.compbiomed.2015.04.036, 2015.
  • Williams JC and Entcheva E, Optogenetic vs. electrical stimulation of human cardiomyocytes: Modeling insights.  Biophysical Journal 108(8):1934-45. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2015.03.032, 2015.
  • 2016 - Elected AIMBE Fellow for “pioneering work in cardiac optogenetics & spearheading the development and biophysical characterization of new bioengineering tools towards all-optical electrophysiology”
  • 2017 - Lead Judge for the National Finals of the Siemens Math and Science Competition for high school students
  • 2018 and 2006 - Organizer of a 4-week International Workshop “Integrative Cardiac Dynamics” at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP), University of California, Santa Barbara, CA
  • Select invited speaker:
    • Frequent seminar speaker nationally and internationally, session moderator, discussion leader at universities and professional meetings
    • 2017 - Invited Speaker, Featured “BiOS Hot Topics” at SPIE Photonics West
    • 2017 - Invited Lecturer, Biophotonics Summer School, Island of Ven, Sweden
    • 2017 - Invited Speaker, Pioneers in Biomedical Research (PBR) Research Seminar Series, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute (VTCRI), Roanoke, Virginia
  • Editorial Board and Journal Reviewer:
    • Since 2013- Editorial Board Member for Scientific Reports (Nature family of journals)
    • Since 2011- Editor for Frontiers in Computational Physiology & Medicine
    • Ad hoc Associate Editor for PLoS Computational Biology
    • Reviewer for over 30 professional journals
  • Select grant review panels:
    • 2016, 2017, 2018- NSF CAREER grants
    • 2007, 2012- NSF IGERT grants
    • 2016, 2017, 2018- NSF Biophotonics grants
    • 2011- NSF “Bioengineering & Biotechnology” study section
    • 2006- NSF “Computational Biology” study section
    • 2006- NSF “Sensors and Biochips” study section
    • 2003- NSF “Tissue Engineering” study section
    • 2013-2017 Member of the NIH ESTA (Electrical Signaling, Ion Transport and Arrhythmias) study section
    • 2008-2019- NIH Special Emphasis Panels for grants under NHLBI and NIBIB, for the Transformative Awards program, for the BRAIN Initiative
    • 2008-2011 NIH MABS (Modeling & Analysis of Biological Systems) study section
    • 2016- NIH T32 grants
    • 2004-2013 American Heart Association “Bioengineering & Biotechnology” study section
    • 2017, 2019- DFG: German Research Foundation grant
    • 2014, 2015- Netherland’s Organization for Scientific Research (ZonMw)
    • 2013 - Netherlands Stem Cell Grants
    • 2013- Welcome Trust Fund, UK
    • 2015- United Kingdom NC3Rs (National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research)
    • 2006, 2008, 2009 Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) Europe-America-Asia
    • 2010, 2011 GIF: German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research & Development (2010, 2011)
  • Extramural Grant Support
    • 2018-2022, NSF Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) grant, “EFRI: Human cardiac opto-epigenetics with HDAC inhibitors, Role: PI (Co-PIs: Z. Li, A. Villagra, S. Jia, R. Mazitschek)
    • 2019-2023, NIH-NHLBI, R01 HL144157-01A1, “Scalable platform for optimizing human cardiac tissue engineering via optical pacing and on-demand oxygenation”, Role: Multi-PI contact with (MPI Kay MW, Co-I: Z. Li, A. Popratiloff, A. Horvath, D. Kostov)
    • 2012-2019, R01 NIH-NHLBI R01HL111649, “Cardiac optogenetics: A cell delivery approach”, Role: PI
    • 2018-2020, NSF-Partnerships for innovation (PFI), “PFI-TT: Automated platform for drug testing in human heart cells using light”, Role: PI
    • 2017-2020, NSF-Biophotonics, “Light-enabled gene control for cardiac applications”, Role: PI
    • 2015-2019, NSF-Biophotonics, “All-optical interrogation system for cardiac dynamics”, Role: PI
    • 2016-2019, NIH-NIBIB, R21EB023106, “Near-infrared optogenetic control of the human heart”, Role: Multi-PI with MPI I. Efimov
    • 2018-2021, NIH-NHLBI, “Low-intensity ultrasound for control of cardiac electromechanics: a mechanistic investigation”, Role: Multi-PI contact with MPI V. Zderic
    • 2018-2021, Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, “Neurally-Mediated Arrhythmogenesis”, Role: unpaid Co-I, PI: G. Bub
  • Entcheva E, Klimas A, “Automated system for high-throughput all-optical dynamic cardiac electrophysiology”, No. 62/330,741, patent filled at GW on 05/02/2017.
  • Entcheva E, Bub G, “Optical interrogation and control of dynamic biological functions”, international patent WO 2016108049, patent filed jointly through University of Oxford, UK, and SBU 12/2015.
  • Entcheva E, Bien H, Jia Z, Lu Z and Cohen IS, “Optical control of cardiac function”, international patent WO/2012/054484.