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Life Partners

3D lab culture model of of co-developing human heart and lung cells – mimicking their natural communication

10 March 2022

Life Partners

Growing side by side in an early embryo, groups of cells destined to become the heart and lungs exchange chemical signals. Like many of our early tissues, their development is separate but collaborative, with life-long implications for health. Opening a window on these delicate moments is a welcome challenge for scientists. Here they treat human induced pluripotent stem cells with different chemicals to produce heart and lung ‘microtissues’ (highlighted in red and green, respectively) – 3D structures that mimic would-be organs. Researchers notice that lung microtissues develop quicker when grown next to young heart cells, only to part ways later in development, similar to how real tissues migrate into place in the womb. While they’ll never be so close again, the heart and lungs continue their partnership for the rest of our lives – with blood passed to and fro with every single beat.

Written by John Ankers

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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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