It looks like the kind of twisted road network that would give a town planner a heart attack, but this closely packed network of biological highways could lead to new treatments for patients with heart disease. This artificially-coloured microscope image shows the dense network of blood vessels in the heart of an adult zebrafish. Although it might seem unlikely, these tiny tropical fish have become a vital model organism for researchers studying heart disease due to an unusual ability – unlike humans, zebrafish can regenerate damaged heart muscle and blood vessels in a matter of weeks following injury or disease. What’s more, they have a fast life cycle, reaching maturity in just three months, and are easy to keep and study in the lab. By figuring out the biological pathways and molecules involved in this regeneration process, researchers hope to develop treatments that can repair broken human hearts in the future.
Written by Kat Arney
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.