Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Fishing for Clues

Gene identified as important for fish heart development could provide clues to human heart defects

06 December 2018

Fishing for Clues

The four chambers of our hearts – two atria above two ventricles – started working long before birth, yet how they first form is still a little mysterious. Fortunately, one of our distant ancestors – the zebrafish – may have clues. Here, a high-powered microscope pictures a developing zebrafish heart from different angles. Cells highlighted in blue have a gene called meis2b switched on – in adult fish this one-sided, asymmetric, pattern helps to distinguish the left and right sides of the fish’s single atrium. The human form of meis2b may help to separate our left and right atria chambers during development – a genetic instruction passed down from the fish’s simpler heart. Faults in such genes can lead to congenital heart defects, and zebrafish may soon be called upon again to investigate the causes, and potential treatments, for these human conditions.

Written by John Ankers

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