One way to tackle genetic problems in human hearts is watching how the organ first develops. Taking a different tack, researchers use these zebrafish hearts to investigate how changes in trabeculae, ridges and grooves in the heart’s ventricles, affect the heartbeat – using methods too dangerous for human study. A highly-detailed technique called light-sheet microscopy scans a zebrafish ventricle as it fills with blood and contracts (moving down the row on the left). A specially made computer program detects stresses in the heart muscle wall, ranging from low (blue) to high (red), using this information to build 3D simulations of blood flow, or haemodynamics. Comparing the healthy heart to hearts treated with drugs that affect trabeculae (middle columns), or a genetic fault which affects heart development (right) may yield important clues to trabeculae-associated human diseases like noncompaction cardiomyopathy.
Written by John Ankers
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