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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Feb;1188:103-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05089.x.

The role of mechanical forces in the torsional component of cardiac looping.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 63130, USA.


During early development, the initially straight heart tube (HT) bends and twists (loops) into a curved tube to lay out the basic plan of the mature heart. The physical mechanisms that drive and regulate looping are not yet completely understood. This paper reviews our recent studies of the mechanics of cardiac torsion during the first phase of looping (c-looping). Experiments and computational modeling show that torsion is primarily caused by forces exerted on the HT by the primitive atria and the splanchnopleure, a membrane that presses against the ventral surface of the heart. Experimental and numerical results are described and integrated to propose a hypothesis for cardiac torsion, and key aspects of our hypothesis are tested using experiments that perturb normal looping. For each perturbation, the models predict the correct qualitative response. These studies provide new insight into the mechanisms that drive and regulate cardiac looping.

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