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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2011 Oct;21(5):573-8. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2011.07.004. Epub 2011 Sep 4.

Imaging heart development using high-resolution episcopic microscopy.

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MRC National Institute for Medical Research, London, UK.


Development of the heart in vertebrate embryos is a complex process in which the organ is continually remodelled as chambers are formed, valves sculpted and connections established to the developing vascular system. Investigating the genetic programmes driving these changes and the environmental factors that may influence them is critical for our understanding of congenital heart disease. A recurrent challenge in this work is how to integrate studies as diverse as those of cardiac gene function and regulation with an appreciation of the localised interactions between cardiac tissues not to mention the manner in which both may be affected by cardiac function itself. Meeting this challenge requires an accurate way to analyse the changes in 3D morphology of the developing heart, which can be swift or protracted and both dramatic or subtle in consequence. Here we review the use of high-resolution episcopic microscopy as a simple and effective means to examine organ structure and one that allows modern computing methods pioneered by clinical imaging to be applied to the embryonic heart.

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