FEB 15, 2017 1:39 PM PST

Tracing Cell Lineages Back to the Beginning of the Heart's Chambers

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

The heart’s four chambers, made up of left and right atria and ventricles, work together in an amazingly intricate fashion, and understandably the path embryonic cells take to build these chambers is just as complex.

Researchers from the Mindich Child Health and Development Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital dove deeply into the study of one gene that impacts the development of one type of heart chamber but not the other, hoping to answer some questions about the risk of congenital heart defects, which often result from complications during chamber formation.

"An in-depth understanding of the formation of the heart chambers will enable us to better comprehend the biology behind detrimental heart defects and how best to address them," explained lead investigator of the Nature Communications study, Nicole Dubois, PhD.

Dubois and her team examined a mice model capable of exhibiting the entire lineage of cells that build the chambers of the heart. They focused on a protein-coding gene called Foxa2 that appeared to be heavily involved during embryonic development.

As a protein-coding gene, Foxa2 regulates the transcription of other genes involved in embryonic development, which means that Foxa2 has a say in whether or not certain genes are expressed and active. Development is a complex process where dozens of different tissue types must differentiate from progenitors, or precursors, cells which are destined to become a certain tissue but start out with essentially a blank slate.

They found that the progenitor cells expressing Foxa2 early in the development process eventually turn into ventricular cardiomyocytes, or heart cells, but not atrial cardiomyocytes. This means that the distinction between atria and ventricles is made long before structural differences are evident between the two chamber types.

Image: The left image is of an embryonic mouse heart, showing the four chambered structure with atria at the top and ventricles at the bottom. The right image is the fluorescent lineage tracing reporter, showing that our newly discovered progenitor cell population contributes specifically to the ventricular chambers of the heart. Credit: Mount Sinai Health System

 

“We hope that these findings will also lead to new protocols for the generation of ventricular cardiomyocytes in cell culture that could potentially be used in therapeutic settings," Dubois said.

Dubois and first author Evan Bardot, a PhD student, still have many questions about the role of Foxa2 during embryonic heart development that have yet to be addressed. Whatever the answers may be, they could open an entirely new window into the understanding of congenital heart defects, the most common type of birth defect.

Sources: GeneCards Human Gene Database, Mount Sinai Hospital/School of Medicine

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 01, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 01, 2019
Blue Whales Exhibit 'Extremely Low' Heart Rates When Performing Deep Dives
Blue whales have a reputation for being massive, and as far as we know, they’re the largest living animal in exist ...
JAN 29, 2020
Cardiology
JAN 29, 2020
Eating Eggs Everyday Not Linked to Heart Disease
The common controversy over whether eating eggs is bad for heart health may finally have been dissolved thanks to new fi ...
FEB 10, 2020
Cardiology
FEB 10, 2020
Blocking Problem Protein Shows Promise for Preventing Heart Attacks
Over time, atherosclerosis, a disease that causes fatty plaques to build up in the arteries, limits the flow of oxygen-r ...
APR 10, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
APR 10, 2020
Cardiac Patch Repairs Heart Attack Damage in Pigs and Rats
Heart attacks significantly damage cardiac tissue. Recovery time frames from a heart attack thus depend on the extent to ...
APR 14, 2020
Cardiology
APR 14, 2020
Personalized Treatments for Patients with Diabetes and Heart Disease
Often, people who have Type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. This is because they are usu ...
MAY 15, 2020
Technology
MAY 15, 2020
What is HARVEY?
One of the biggest challenges facing clinical workers is trying to explore user interface treatment options easily witho ...
Loading Comments...