Ultra-thin Tissue Samples Could Help to Understand And Treat Heart Disease

Source: Imperial College London

Summary: Researchers have developed a new method for preparing ultra-thin slices of heart tissue in the lab which can help them to study how cells behave inside a beating heart.

The heart is made up of millions of single muscle cells called cardiomyocytes which are kept together in a place by a criss-crossing collagen fibre network. These cardiac muscle cells contract and relax in a synchronous manner to create a strong and regular heartbeat. In patients suffering from heart disease, the cells start to die, beat asynchronously and sometimes the tissue gets damaged. In order to help patients, researchers need to understand what are the things affecting the heart from deep inside. Researchers from the Imperial College London have developed a new method for preparing ultra-thin slices of heart tissue in the lab which can help them to study how cells behave inside a beating heart and treat the heart disease. The research findings were published in the journal Nature Protocols.

Ultrathin Heart Tissue sample help to better understand the heart

Tissue method enables high-quality imaging of heart cells. Credit: Imperial College London

A reliable model to observe the heart in detail and could be easily studied in the lab but without losing the complexity of the heart, has so far been out of reach. In the current study, the researchers have perfected a method that is more reliable and much needed alternative, which can be used to prepare heart tissue samples from small animals such as rodents, as well as larger animals and humans. A precision cutting tool called vibratome is used to cut from the walls of heart chambers, which produces thin living heart tissue slices, between 100-400 µm in thickness (slightly thicker than a human hair). The thinness of the sheets allows the cells to receive the oxygen and nutrients from the solution, so the tissue can be kept alive for longer.

Prof. Cesare Terracciano said, Our laboratory was one of the first to use myocardial slices,”  “Through careful optimisation of the technique we have been able to improve it significantly, both in terms of increasing the proportion of living cells in the samples, as well as in terms of maintaining the structure and function of the tissue.”

More Information: Samuel A Watson et al, “Preparation of viable adult ventricular myocardial slices from large and small mammals”, Nature Protocols (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nprot.2017.139

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