Building a mammalian heart is no mean feat. The orchestration requires many co-ordinated protein players, some more important than others as illustrated here. A single protein is absent in the developing mouse heart (pictured on the right). The protein, called S1P1R, is helping researchers unravel the complex events that take place as the heart develops. Mouse embryos that lack S1P1R fail to develop normal hearts and die before they are born. In a series of experiments to understand why this happens, the team compared ultra thin sections of the hearts from normal mice early embryos (left) with those lacking the S1P1R protein (right). The heart cells are labelled with a green fluorescent tag and the red dots mark the cell nuclei. Without S1P1R the heart tissue is disorganised, and key structures like heart valves fail to develop. These kinds of insight could help combat heart defects in newborn infants.
Written by Caroline Cross
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