Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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New technique allows 3D imaging in unprecedented detail

06 December 2022

Frozen Heart

Shape and structure are often essential to life’s tasks – enzymes with specific shapes fit particular molecules like a lock and key, and zooming out, the patterns of cells in tissues and organs offer clues to health, damage and disease. In this detailed 3D scan of a mouse’s heart, each cardiac muscle fibre is coloured based on its orientation within the organ’s microstructure. Normally, taking such a detailed view inside living tissue requires damaging it in some way. But this heart is stained and quickly frozen preserving its details and allowing a version of micro-computed tomography to build an intact 3D picture. The movie’s virtual slices reveal the location of fibrotic regions (blue) – hardened tissue formed after surgery. In humans, cardiac fibrosis can lead to heart failure so studying similar detailed models may allow researchers to test new approaches and drugs to healing hearts.

Written by John Ankers

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