New 3D Whole-Heart Imaging Techniques Cater Improved Heart Treatment Options

With the help of a new technique with three-dimensional imaging of whole heart, it will become easier to find the underlying causing factors to study congenital heart disease in humans. It may help in improving the treatments that will considerably help in increasing the life span of individuals born with heart defects, research was conducted at the Oregon Health and Science University, United States, published in the Biological defects, eLife.

A congenital heart defect is a problem predisposed as a result of the problem with the structure of the heart which is present at birth. It is reported the most common type of birth defect involving, the walls of the heart, the valves of the heart, and the arteries and veins near the heart.

Effective pumping of heart significantly relies on the structure of the heart which enables heart contraction in pumping blood. In cases of birth defects like congenital heart defects, it was found that the localized ultrastructural disruptions considerably exacerbate the risk of heart failure, due to a lack of technologies that can prove 3-D imaging of heart.

In 1% of the infants born with heart problems, surgery and other treatment interventions are believed to repair structural defects in hearts. But, unfortunately, an estimated 10 to 25% of these children don’t survive even their first year and nearly 44% won’t make it till 18. In the study, the new 3-D techniques are found to locate the defects in cells as well as the damaged components within them.


The lead author Graham Rykiel, MS, a biomedical engineer who conducted the study as a graduate student in a research team led by senior author Sandra Rugonyi at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), Portland, Oregon, US., said, “Our imaging technology will allow us to study exactly what happens within the heart and its cells when the heart has a defect or is diseased.”

Source: CDC

While pumping the blood, the chambers of the heart fill up, which thereby contract the heart muscles to push the blood back out into circulation in the body. Healthy heart cells and small muscle fibers that creates voltage, are essential to efficiently contract the blood.

In the study, researchers combined two imaging techniques, namely, 3D microcomputed tomography and 3D scanning electron microscopy. The combinational imaging helped in developing a high-resolution 3D images of the whole heart of a chicken embryo. It zoomed further into the morphology and organization of heart cells.

The three-dimensional imaging revealed that there were differences found in the structure of heart cells of an embryo with the heart defect and an embryo with healthy heart cells. Therefore, researchers suggest that this new intervention will help in better elucidating the normal heart development in chickens, other animals, and may be in humans.

It, therefore, may help in explaining why it is important to have healthy tiny structural fibers and cells to ensure healthy heart functioning, and how their dysfunctional structures lead to congenital birth defects in heart.

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