Bending of the looping heart: differential growth revisited.
In the early embryo, the primitive heart tube (HT) undergoes the morphogenetic process of c-looping as it bends and twists into a c-shaped tube. Despite intensive study for nearly a century, the physical forces that drive looping remain poorly understood. This is especially true for the bending component, which is the focus of this paper. For decades, experimental measurements of mitotic rates had seemingly eliminated differential growth as the cause of HT bending, as it has commonly been thought that the heart grows almost exclusively via hyperplasia before birth and hypertrophy after birth. Recently published data, however, suggests that hypertrophic growth may play a role in looping. To test this idea, we developed finite-element models that include regionally measured changes in myocardial volume over the HT. First, models based on idealized cylindrical geometry were used to simulate the bending process in isolated hearts, which bend without the complicating effects of external loads. With the number of free parameters in the model reduced to the extent possible, stress and strain distributions were compared to those measured in embryonic chick hearts that were isolated and cultured for 24 h. The results show that differential growth alone yields results that agree reasonably well with the trends in our data, but adding active changes in myocardial cell shape provides closer quantitative agreement with stress measurements. Next, the estimated parameters were extrapolated to a model based on realistic 3D geometry reconstructed from images of an actual chick heart. This model yields similar results and captures quite well the basic morphology of the looped heart. Overall, our study suggests that differential hypertrophic growth in the myocardium (MY) is the primary cause of the bending component of c-looping, with other mechanisms possibly playing lesser roles.
Shi, Y; Yao, J; Xu, G; Taber, LA
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