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Biomedical Sciences

Major structures in foetal hearts are formed in just four days, according to a Leeds study that used the latest imaging techniques. With this knowledge, doctors could eventually be able to monitor babies during this critical development phase and intervene if problems occur. It’s thought that one in 10 miscarriages is caused by the failure of the heart to form.

The most remarkable changes in foetal hearts occur 124 days into pregnancy. Within this time, the muscle tissue rapidly organises and cardiac fibres are laid down to form the helix shape of the heart. The research team, led by Dr Eleftheria Pervolaraki, also identified two proteins critical to the heart’s development. Levels of connexin 40 and 43 increase during its growth period, helping cells to communicate.