During the scariest bit of the film, you feel a familiar pounding in your chest. Most of the time, however, our heartbeat goes unnoticed. To keep an adult human going the heart has to beat 60-80 times a minute – that’s over 100,000 times a day. This constant activity relies on a carefully choreographed pattern of electrical signals, produced by the movement of calcium ions. Now, using zebrafish genetically engineered to produce a calcium-sensitive fluorescent protein, scientists can watch as signals are conducted through its tube-shaped heart. When viewed under a microscope, computer software maps the fluorescent signals (white) through the beating heart. The red lines show how the electrical signal moves from right to left, marking its position every 60 milliseconds. This new approach to studying the heart could give important insights into various cardiac diseases, driving the development of better treatments.
Written by Emma Stoye
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.