A paradox in biology is that our hearts begin to beat before they're fully formed. This video shows young heart cells as they start to beat out the rhythm that will last a lifetime. Scientists captured this activity in real-time at around ten hours after fertilisation, by using advanced microscope techniques. They labelled individual cells in the embryos of mice, then tracked each cell’s growth and movements. This showed that early heart cells cluster in two groups. Cells in the first group are quick to begin beating, while those in the second help the first cells to move into place along a tube-shaped structure (shown here). Once there, both groups beat in unison. The tube pumps blood and will ultimately develop into the heart’s four chambers. It’s the alternating roles of the two groups of cells that allows the heart to function before it is fully developed.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.