Studying how the rhythm of beats is maintained using powerful microscopy in fat-cleared hearts
To keep our hearts beating in time the autonomic nervous system carries pulses of electrical activity deep into their muscular walls, causing repeating patterns of contractions. Usually hidden behind layers of fatty molecules, the nerves in this mouse heart are revealed in bright colours under a high-powered microscope after a chemical wash to clear the fats away. Computer algorithms help to spot the ‘circuits’ of nerves, colour-coding them by diameter (left, blue thinnest, red thickest) or by their orientation with the heart (right). These patterns reveal fresh details about how heart rhythm in maintained, but also provide a comparison for future studies – using similar techniques to examine how these patterns are disrupted by cardiovascular diseases and conditions such as myocardial infarction.
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