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Molecules that guide embryonic heart-forming cells identified

Date:
May 5, 2014
Source:
University of East Anglia
Summary:
Reserach reveals how cells that form the heart in developing embryos are guided to move into the correct place. It is hoped that the findings will help researchers better understand how congenital heart defects happen during the early stages of pregnancy. The heart is the first functioning organ to develop in humans, and correct formation is crucial for embryo survival and growth.
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The heart is the first functioning organ to develop in humans, and correct formation is crucial for embryo survival and growth.

New research published today reveals how cells that form the heart, known as 'cardiac progenitors', are guided to move into the right place for the heart to begin to form.

It is hoped that the findings will help researchers better understand how congenital heart defects happen during the early stages of pregnancy.

Researchers studied live chick embryos and used a fluorescent dye to follow how prospective heart cells move together under the microscope.

Lead researcher Prof Andrea Münsterberg, from UEA's School of Biological Sciences, said: "We have identified two important molecules which work together to control the correct migration of these cells. They do this by responding to signals, which help the cells navigate their way together -- a bit like the embryo's own GPS system. Once they have arrived in the correct place, they can begin to form the heart.

"Exactly how the cardiac progenitor cells are guided in their movement by these external signals is still unclear, but we have identified two key players that are important in this process.

"This research is particularly important because correct heart formation, at the right time and in the right place, is crucial for embryos to survive and grow."


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of East Anglia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. Song, J. McColl, E. Camp, N. Kennerley, G. F. Mok, D. McCormick, T. Grocott, G. N. Wheeler, A. E. Munsterberg. Smad1 transcription factor integrates BMP2 and Wnt3a signals in migrating cardiac progenitor cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1321764111

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University of East Anglia. "Molecules that guide embryonic heart-forming cells identified." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140505155335.htm>.
University of East Anglia. (2014, May 5). Molecules that guide embryonic heart-forming cells identified. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140505155335.htm
University of East Anglia. "Molecules that guide embryonic heart-forming cells identified." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140505155335.htm (accessed June 30, 2015).

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