Molecular signals that trigger accurate heart development in zebrafish identified
Everything has to start somewhere. For the heart – the multi-chambered organ responsible for pumping blood round the body – the journey starts in the embryo from a simple tube of cells twisting around on itself. By studying these embryonic zebrafish hearts as they grow in plastic dishes in the lab, researchers are starting to understand the intricate details of the molecular pathway that cause a straight tube to start expanding and twisting round on itself (left) – the first step towards forming the chambers of a fully-functioning heart. If the cells are lacking certain key genes in this pathway then they ‘forget’ which way is up. As a result, the tube balloons up but doesn’t start doing the twist (right) so the heart doesn’t develop properly. Faults in the human versions of these genes have been implicated in inherited heart defects, helping to shed light on the developmental origins of these problems.
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