Ultra-thin tissue samples could help to understand and treat heart disease
A new method for preparing ultra-thin slices of heart tissue in the lab could help scientists to study how cells behave inside a beating heart.
The heart is made up of millions of individual muscle cells called cardiomyocytes that are kept in place by a criss-crossing network of collagen fibres. These cells work together, contracting in sync to create a strong and regular heartbeat.
In patients with heart disease, however, these cells can start to die, beat out of sync, or the structure of the tissue can become damaged. In order to help patients with heart disease, researchers need to understand how and why these processes can go wrong and how they affect the organ.
Traditional methods for studying conditions affecting the heart have either used living animal models (such as rats and mice), which can be too complex to observe the heart in detail, or heart cells kept alive in the lab, which may provide an oversimplified view of what’s going on in the whole organ. A reliable intermediate model – which could be easily studied in the lab but without losing the complexity of the heart – has so far been out of reach.