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Heart Pressed

Heart muscle and lining develop in response to pressure from each other

27 January 2020

Heart Pressed

Standing in a dense crowd, a nudge here and a shove there are signals to shuffle over, make way, or stand your ground. And a new study has shown that at the molecular level, physical pressures can have a similar effect. During early heart development, two types of tissue grow separately, but in tandem: the muscle and the inner lining. Studying the hearts of various zebrafish (pictured in different colours to highlight particular factors at play), they found that the increasing pressure from expanding muscle tissue prompts chemical signals that encourage the lining to keep growing. The lining only slows when the pressure eases off – showing that a physical feedback loop is instigating important biochemical signals, a form of communication not previously seen. If this push and pull method of communication exists in other organs, it may reveal new details of how we grow, and even how diseases take hold.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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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.

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