Every day until Friday 23 October, we are posting an image on Twitter for you, our followers, to guess what it shows.
Friday 23 image revealed: the 3D heart model
Today’s image shows a 3D model of a patient's heart. The models were developed by BHF-funded researchers at King’s College Hospital. By looking at the heart’s structure, they can identify abnormalities, for example congenital heart defects (CHD). Congenital heart defects are structural abnormalities in the heart which are present at birth. Approximately one in every 100 babies is born with a congenital defect, ranging from a hole between the heart’s chambers to an abnormally shaped valve.
Understanding congenital heart defects
The models are made using a special 3D printer which prints and builds up MRI and CT scan images of a person’s heart. The printers use a liquid called photo polymer that solidifies to make a 3D structure which people can touch and feel. Being able to examine the 3D hearts helps researchers learn more about the structural changes which occur during congenital heart disease and decide which treatments are best.
Using the 3D printer, researchers at King’s hope to develop stents and implants for people who need help transporting blood from one part of their heart to another.
Read more about our research into new and improved stents.
Thursday 22 image revealed: the axolotl amphibian
Today’s image shows the axolotl, an amphibian which Professor Nadia Rosenthal from Imperial College London and the Jackson Laboratory is working with. The axolotl has the ability to regenerate parts of its body. By understanding how it regrows body parts, Professor Rosenthal and her team hope to exploit this knowledge to help regenerate damaged hearts.
Read about our Mending Broken Hearts Appeal.
The importance of the macrophage
A key finding in Professor Rosenthal’s lab is that the axolotl requires a particular white blood cell, called a macrophage, early in their regeneration process. The team will study why this cell is important.
Professor Rosenthal and her team are also investigating a hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in mice, which has been shown to reverse multiple sclerosis (a severe condition affecting the nerves of the brain and spinal cord) and improve heart muscle repair following a heart attack. They are utilising 30 different types of mice which they have specially developed to try and investigate the different ways that diseases progress in people.
Read about another animal which can regenerate: the zebrafish.
Wednesday 21 image revealed: the lymphatic vessels
Lymphatic vessels are responsible for the transport of immune cells (white blood cells) around the body. After a heart attack, an inflammatory response to the injury occurs which can cause further damage to the heart.
Do they hold the key to injured hearts?
PhD student Sophie Norman, alongside BHF Professor Paul Riley, is exploring whether lymphatic vessels could help control the inflammation and muscle damage which occurs during the heart’s response to injury. Specifically, they are looking at Prox1, a gene key to the development of the cells which line lymphatic and blood vessels (epithelial cells).
Today’s image was taken in Sophie’s lab and shows (in yellow) the developing lymphatic vessels of a mouse heart.
Read more about Professor Paul Riley’s lymphatic vessel research.
Watch our video on how lymphatic vessels could help regenerate the heart.
Read our new Research Strategy to keep us at the forefront of heart disease.