Analysis of heart development in cultured rat embryos

M. Nakagawa, R. L. Price, C. Chintanawonges, D. G. Simpson, M. J. Horacek, T. K. Borg, L. Terracio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The long-range goal of this research is to establish an in vitro system that will permit pertubation of mammalian heart development and in situ examination of the cellular and molecular events underlying cardiac morphogenesis. Rat embryos at 9.5-11.5 days of gestation were placed in culture bottles containing rat serum and Tyrode's solution. Embryos cultured for 24 and 48 h were compared to age-matched in vivo controls for morphological score, morphometric analysis of heart development, and confocal and electron microscopic analysis of myofiber pattern formation. Morphological scores indicated that embryos cultured for 24 h from day 9.5 to 10.5 had essentially normal development when compared to age-matched embryos allowed to develop in vivo. Development of embryos maintained for 48 h in culture was slightly delayed at 66-68% of age matched in vivo embryos. Analysis of hearts from embryos allowed to develop 9.5-11.5 days in vivo plus 24 and 48 h in culture showed that the ventricular thickness and height, as well as the truncal, atrial and ventricular diameters were equivalent to those of hearts from age-matched in vivo controls. Hearts from embryos allowed to develop from 11.5-12.5 days in vitro and cultured for 24 and 48 h had smaller left ventricular and atrial dimensions than controls. Cardiac myofibrillogenesis and myofibrillar pattern formation in embryos cultured from 9.5 days of in vivo development for 48 h were also normal. These studies indicate that the rat whole embryo culture system is a useful model to study several critical periods in mammalian heart development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-379
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • Confocal microscopy
  • Electron microscopy
  • Heart development
  • Whole-embryo culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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