Physical forces can influence the embryonic development of many tissues. Within the cardiovascular system shear forces resulting from blood flow are known to be one of the regulatory signals that shape the developing heart. A key challenge in investigating the role of shear forces in cardiac development is the ability to obtain shear force measurements in vivo. Utilising the zebrafish model system we have developed a methodology that allows the shear force within the developing embryonic heart to be determined. Accurate wall shear measurement requires two essential pieces of information; high-resolution velocity measurements near the heart wall and the location and orientation of the heart wall itself. We have applied high-speed brightfield imaging to capture time-lapse series of blood flow within the beating heart between 3 and 6 days post-fertilization. Cardiac-phase filtering is applied to these time-lapse images to remove the heart wall and other slow moving structures leaving only the red blood cell movement. Using particle image velocimetry to calculate the velocity of red blood cells in different regions within the heart, and using the signal-to-noise ratio of the cardiac-phase filtered images to determine the boundary of blood flow, and therefore the position of the heart wall, we have been able to generate the necessary information to measure wall shear in vivo. We describe the methodology required to measure shear in vivo and the application of this technique to the developing zebrafish heart. We identify a reduction in shear at the ventricular-bulbar valve between 3 and 6 days post-fertilization and demonstrate that the shear environment of the ventricle during systole is constantly developing towards a more uniform level.
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