Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Young Hearts
07 November 2017

Young Hearts

As a baby develops in the womb, heart muscle fibres grow and twist into a pump that beats for the rest of their life. Researchers looked inside 23 developing human hearts and found important changes occur in the muscle at a precise time – over four days beginning 124 days into pregnancy. Here a technique called diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging highlights muscle fibres as lines artificially coloured by their different twists inside the overall structure. This 128-day old heart has thickened fibres, creating the muscular septum (long red branch) and strengthening the walls of the ventricles (white gaps) – crucial steps in the survival of the foetus. As heart defects are a major cause of miscarriage, pictures like this may provide a comparison for future pregnancies. Routine scans during these remarkable four days might detect problems earlier, saving young lives.

Written by John Ankers

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