January 26, 2009

Scientists study developing chicken hearts

U.S. medical researchers are examining developing hearts in chickens in an effort to find solutions for human heart abnormalities

Since little is known about the complex processes that regulate the heartbeat, University of Missouri Assistant Professor Luis Polo-Parada and his team examined embryonic chickens' hearts, which develop morphologically and functionally similarly to humans' hearts, and tested the electrical activity present in the cardiac muscle cells during a 24-hour period. They found changes in local proteins have important effects on embryonic heart beat control.

Electrical activity in the heart appears in very early stages of development, said Polo-Parada. This study determined the role of the heart micro-environment in regulating electrical activity in cardiac cells that are required for normal cardiac function. Understanding exactly how a heart is made and how it begins to function will allow us to significantly improve therapies for a wide range of cardiac anomalies, injuries and diseases such as hypertension, cardiac fibrosis, cardiac hypertrophy and congestive heart failure.

The research has been accepted for publication in the journal Developmental Dynamics.