Highlights: Rat Heart Has A Brain and a 3-D Model Will Show You

Nerve cells which constitute the intracardiac nervous system of a rat heart.
  • Intracardiac nervous system is a part of the heart called “little brain”.
  • The big brain is still the heart’s control center but the neurons in the heart may also play a role. Researchers think that these nerve cells may have a crucial part in heart health such as controlling the rhythms and protecting people from heart disease.
  • A team of scientists led by biologist James Schwaber of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia used a technique called knife-edge scanning microscope to create a detailed single-cell resolution image of both male and female rat heart. The images are then built into a 3-D model of the heart.
  • The team also removed each nerve cells and determined the amount of activity from the gene. The amount of gene activity measured sorted the heart’s nerve cells into different groups.
  • Scientists determined that most of these nerve cells are found at the top of the heart where the blood vessels connect. A few of these nerve cells are found at the back and especially on the left side.
  • The new data gives scientists a kick off start in figuring whether these nerve cells have distinct functions.




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