Early heart formation in zebrafish is remarkably similar to what takes place in humans. Transparency of the embryo and rapid heart development make zebrafish especially appealing to scientists who research the causes of cardiac birth defects.
Upstate’s Jeffrey Amack PhD, an assistant professor of cell and developmental biology, concentrates his work on cardiac morphogenesis, or how the heart takes shape. He studies genes that control positioning of the heart in zebrafish and has found that some of these genes are also critical for normal human heart development through collaborations with clinical geneticists whose patients have family histories of congenital heart defects.
This image, taken by PhD student Yongchang Ji, shows a cross section of a developing heart in a zebrafish embryo only two days after fertilization. The ventricle (top chamber) and atrium (lower chamber) have formed and contraction of the heart has already established robust circulation in the embryo. The muscle layer of the heart (labeled red) covers the inner lining of the heart (labeled green). The blue areas represent individual cell nuclei.