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Much of this is controlled by following genetic blueprints, but the embryonic heart also matures in response to the intense stresses of pumping blood.

For the first time, researchers have been able to visualize in 3-D the stresses induced by flowing blood in an embryonic heart. The technique, which promises to provide new insight into how and why heart defects develop, is described in a paper published today in the Optical Society's OSA open-access journal Biomedical Optics Express.

The researchers, led by Andrew M. Rollins, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, looked at a particular type of stress in the heart known as shear stress, which is simply the parallel force of one material sliding along another. In the developing heart, shear stress is induced in the heart's own endocardial cells as blood cells rush past them. Normally, such shear stress helps to control and regulate cellular processes involved in heart development. Even tiny aberrations in the heart beat, however, can alter blood flow patterns and change these developmental forces, leading to congenital heart defects such as abnormal valve formation.

I apparently have arteries growing around a blockage. What does that mean?

Rollins and his colleagues at Case Western Reserve developed their new imaging method by modifying a technique called Doppler optical coherence tomography, or OCT. In OCT, a beam of infrared light is shined on a tissue and the "echoes" or reflections of that light produced at varying depths are used to make an image. In laboratory experiments, Rollins and colleagues directly measured the heart structure and blood flow within the developing hearts of quail embryos. The data was then used to create 4-D images basically, 3-D movies , which showed that "locations of high shear correspond with locations of future valve formation," he says.


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The researchers hope to take what they have learned from these preliminary animal tests and develop a way to apply this technique to humans. The ultimate goal is to develop a tool that doctors can use to decide if early intervention could put a developing heart back on the right track, preventing a defect. Explore further.

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MU Drives Collaboration Developing New Heart-Failure Drug

By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Share Twit Share Email. This is a quail embryo. The bulge on the middle left side of the embryo is its developing heart. Credit: Biomedical Optics Express. This is a map of the shear stress on a developing heart at four evenly spaced time points during a heart cycle. Red indicates areas of greater stress.

More information: "4-D shear stress maps of the developing heart using Doppler optical coherence tomography," Biomedical Optics Express , Vol. Journal information: Biomedical Optics Express. Provided by Optical Society of America. This document is subject to copyright.

Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. In a healthy heart, the ejection fraction is 50 percent or higher — meaning that more than half of the blood that fills the left ventricle is pumped out with each beat. The cells themselves can change in size and shape, affecting the structure inside the cell that allows it to contract and relax.

The heart is struggling and trying to adapt, but the long-term effect of those changes is a negative impact. Further, the proportion of those with HFpEF has been increasing steadily over the past 15 years. Importantly, the disease affects women more than men, particularly older women, highlighting gender-specific issues in treating cardiovascular disease.

Growing a ‘heart’ from stem cells

The curious sex disparity of the disease may have an aspect related to military service. As a result, a U. The goal is to obtain evidence-based feasibility for a new biologic drug intended to treat chronic heart disease, and that drug could hold promise as a new therapy for HFpEF. These women are more likely to hit menopause early, or face increased risk for needing a hysterectomy, which increases their risk of becoming menopausal earlier than they might have normally.

The sooner you become menopausal, that increases your chances of having high blood pressure. These factors could potentially set women on a course for this disease. To address the current lack of treatments for HFpEF, Emter is the co-leader of a wide-ranging collaboration that reaches across campus and the nation. Michael Kapiloff is our collaborator at Stanford, and Dr. Hajjar is probably the worldwide leader in gene therapy as it relates to the heart.

Kapiloff, MD, PhD, is an associate research professor of ophthalmology at Stanford, and he has many accomplishments in cardiovascular medicine. They have identified two molecules as critical for the progression of heart disease in mice and have developed a new biologic drug that has been remarkably effective in mice at preventing heart failure.

The pig is a pretty good human model, as far as the heart goes. Pigs are very similar to humans — maybe the most similar animal species in terms of how the heart works — from the general size of the heart, blood pressures, how it pumps blood through the body and things like that.

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The pigs in question are Ossabaw pigs, a unique breed with a history with Mizzou. The animals trace their lineage back to the s, when Spanish sailors exploring the New World often released horses, cows and pigs to serve as food and transportation during future exploration or settlement. Isolated on an island that experiences seasonal shortages of food, the pigs developed an ability to store astounding amounts of body fat. When they have access to plenty of food, much like people who have bad diets and get caloric excess, they become a diabetic model. Their bodies still hang on to all that food, so they become obese and have many of the symptoms seen in Type 2 diabetes like insulin resistance, high glucose, high blood sugar and those sorts of general metabolic issues.

Biologic drugs are transforming medicine. Unlike chemical drugs, biologics are produced by living cells, and harvested directly from biology. Getting a virus into the heart is pretty difficult; it takes some doing.