Press Release

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Like leaves in a stream: researchers explore the biomechanics of heart valve development

Over the course of an 80-year life, the human heart pumps more than 200 million litres of blood through the body. This impressive feat is crucially dependent on the formation of cardiac valves, which are absent in the early embryonic heart. The rhythmically successive contractions of the ventricles initially generate alternate forwards and backwards flow of the blood. Not until flat structures called ‘cushions’ are transformed into cardiac valves that move, open and close does this lead to targeted blood flow – because a backflow of blood is prevented. Scientists at the University of Potsdam and Hannover Medical School (MHH) have now discovered molecular mechanisms that are activated by the blood flow and influence the development of heart valves (valvulogenesis). The biologists published their findings in the journal eLIFE.