Visualizing Heart Formation

Published on 
February 21, 2014

By Jennifer Jing, MS, media liaison and science writer, Marketing Communications, Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles What do you think is happening in this video? A very important organ is forming—the heart.

Watching the Heart Form

By using a special microscope in the Translational Biomedical Imaging Lab (TBIL) at the Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Rusty Lansford, PhD, is able to record each heart cell as a living embryo grows and develops. You are viewing the embryo from its belly (ventral) side, with the head on the left and the heart in the middle of the screen. The magenta dots are somatic cells, which will develop into various body parts. The blue dots are the cells travelling to form the inner lining of the heart chambers and blood vessels. As you can see, cells from all regions of the body contribute to making our pumping heart.

Why Track Heart Cells?

By studying heart formation on a cellular level, Dr. Lansford and other TBIL researchers are hoping to track exactly when and where defects arise. This will allow them to better understand and treat the progression of congenital heart diseases in babies and children.