Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Mice with glowing hearts shed light on living cells

09.03.2006


There is the heart of gold, and then there is the heart that glows. Literally.


Provided by Kotlikoff et al.
This series reveals increases in cell calcium from a mouse embryo’s upper heart through the lower heart on day 10 of development. Cell calcium rises when muscles contract. The bottom row shows a dramatic slowing of the conducted calcium wave between the upper and lower heart chambers.



Cornell researchers have genetically engineered mice whose hearts glow with a green light every time they beat. The development gives researchers insights into how hearts develop in living mouse embryos and could improve our understanding of irregular heartbeats, known as arrhythmias, as well as open doors to observing cellular processes to better understand basic physiology and disease.

The technique for making living, functional cells fluoresce, or glow, when the concentration of calcium ions rise within cells, is described online at http://www.pnas.org/papbyrecent.shtml and is to be published in a future issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


"The proteins act as molecular spies that tell us what is happening within cells in the living mouse," said Michael Kotlikoff, professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Cornell researchers are breeding new lines of mice with similar proteins that target neurons in the brain, in parasympathetic nerves, in blood vessels or in Purkinje fibers, which prompt the heart’s ventricles to pump. The researchers have also transplanted cells from the mice with glowing hearts into normal mice to see whether the transplanted cells function normally within the host heart, which could offer insights for heart repair.

In the study, the mouse was engineered to express a specially designed molecule that fluoresces when calcium, which increases dramatically with each muscle contraction, is released in heart cells. Co-author Junichi Nakai of the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Wako-shi, Japan, developed the fluorescent molecule by modifying a green fluorescent protein (derived from bioluminescent jellyfish) and making it glow brightly enough to be observed in the working heart.

Calcium turns the sensor molecule off and on like a molecular switch. Greater fluorescence indicates higher calcium levels, and the sensor shows the patterns, rate and force of heart contractions.

Since the mouse heart beats approximately 6 to 10 times per second, imaging requires a special high-speed camera that is cooled to minus 90 degrees Celsius (minus 128 Fahrenheit), reducing "noise" for a sharper image. Co-author Guy Salama of the University of Pittsburgh contributed the optical imaging work.

Using this technique, the researchers were able to track the embryo’s developing heart to glean insights into how the heart forms. In mammals, the heart is the first organ to function and starts beating prior to its full development.

"We knew that the heart starts to pump at around 9.5 days," said Kotlikoff. By day 10.5, there are only two chambers (rather than four chambers in an adult mammal): an atrium on top and a ventricle on the bottom. A delay in beats between the two gives the atrium time to contract and push blood through the heart, but the mechanism that controls that signal, the atrio-ventricular node (AV node), doesn’t develop until day 13. Nobody knew how the heart coordinated the pumping without this key component.

"We knew there had to be a delay in this, but we had no idea how it occurred," said Kotlikoff.

Using the new technique, which tracks the rise of calcium as the heart muscle contracts, the researchers discovered a layer of specialized cells on the surface of the developing heart that delays the beating between the upper to lower parts of the heart. After 13.5 days of development, the two portions of the heart separate into four, and there is a functional AV node. By that time, the technique revealed, the specialized cells have died so that functions are not duplicated.

"These cells have to die, because if they didn’t the heart would not function properly," said Kotlikoff.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports Science and Technology.

Blaine Friedlander | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cornell.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>