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Science. 2006 May 5;312(5774):751-3.

The embryonic vertebrate heart tube is a dynamic suction pump.

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Option in Bioengineering, Beckman Institute, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


The embryonic vertebrate heart begins pumping blood long before the development of discernable chambers and valves. At these early stages, the heart tube has been described as a peristaltic pump. Recent advances in confocal laser scanning microscopy and four-dimensional visualization have warranted another look at early cardiac structure and function. We examined the movement of cells in the embryonic zebrafish heart tube and the flow of blood through the heart and obtained results that contradict peristalsis as a pumping mechanism in the embryonic heart. We propose a more likely explanation of early cardiac dynamics in which the pumping action results from suction due to elastic wave propagation in the heart tube.

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