Regulation of embryonic heart beat control may be assisted by some proteins found in the heart muscle of chickens according to a scientist from University of Missouri.
Knowledge of these components and how they interact can enable researchers with a better understanding of heart development and abnormalities in humans.
For the study, the researchers examined embryonic chickens' hearts, which develop morphologically and functionally similarly to humans' hearts.
They then tested the electrical activity present in the cardiac muscle cells over a period of 24 hours, and found that the changes in local proteins have important effects on embryonic heart beat control.
"Electrical activity in the heart appears in very early stages of development. This study determined the role of the heart microenvironment in regulating electrical activity in cardiac cells that are required for normal cardiac function," said Luis Polo-Parada, assistant professor in the Department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology in the MU School of Medicine and investigator in the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center.
He added: " Understanding exactly how a heart is made and how it begins to function will allow us to significantly improve therapies for a wide range of cardiac anomalies, injuries and diseases such as hypertension, cardiac fibrosis, cardiac hypertrophy and congestive heart failure."
Cardiac function depends on appropriate timing of contraction in various regions of the heart.
The electrical signals that arise within the heart cells that initiate contraction of the heart muscle are essential to the control of the heart.
The upper chambers of the heart, the atria, must contract before the lower chambers, the ventricles, to obtain a coordinated contraction that will propel the blood throughout the body.
Although scientists understand the gross actions of the electrical signals that drive cardiac contraction, they still don't have a full idea of the changes in the local environment of the embryonic and adult heart cells that influence these contractions.