Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Arty Hearts

Gene identified that's crucial for healthy heart development

23 December 2020

Arty Hearts

The heart builds in careful stages inside the womb. At specific times, pools of progenitor cells change into contractile cardiomyocytes in heart muscle or conductive cells which build a network of Purkinje fibres that carry the electrical impulses helping the heart contract. In these mouse hearts, researchers follow progenitor cells through developmental milestones using confetti – a genetic tool that 'paints' cells with random blends of colours as development proceeds. While the overall patterns are similar here, the Purkinje branches (grey) in the right heart haven’t developed properly – they lack healthy activity of a gene called Nkx2-5 which researchers believe helps the conductive network to mature. This insight may help to understand problems in human hearts, where genetic mutations in Nkx2-5 can lead to congenital heart diseases.

Written by John Ankers

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