This detailed 3D map is the first to show all the neurons in a heart

The heart is mainly controlled by the brain and nervous system.However, it also has its own "brain" that allows it to automatically pump blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Known as the intracardiac nervous system (ICN), scientists for the first time have managed to show its complete structure on an impressive 3D map.

Several researchers at Thomas Jefferson University have published a three-dimensional map made up of all the neurons distributed around the heart. From the heart of a mouse, everything must be said. Due to the complexity and larger size of the human heart, for the moment they have made a first test with the heart of the mouse. They plan to do new tests with the pig's heart, more similar to the human.

For the creation of this 3D model, a total of 750,000 images of the heart have been taken by means of a layered microscopic scan. This means "dividing" the heart into 750,000 parts and scanning each of those layers and then putting them together into a single three-dimensional image. On the other hand, individual neurons were also mapped to have samples of their gene expression. Putting both processes together, the result is an impressive three-dimensional map that allows you to see the heart in great detail.

The results reveal a particular grouping of neurons according to the area they surround (arteries, veins, sinoatrial node ...). Something the researchers also realized is that there are specific differences in the structure of neurons based on sex. This could help explain the different diseases of the heart that affect females and males differently.

Why it is relevant to explore the neurons of the heart

While we know of the existence of the intracardiac nervous system, little is really known about it. Researchers say they knew about the existence of these neurons but not exactly where they were around the heart, nor what specific tasks each of these neurons perform. It is the link between neurology and cardiology.

Grouping of neurons according to the area of ​​the heart they affect. Via iScience.

Mapping the entire heart with its respective neurons helps to better understand how this essential organ works in humans and other animals. Indispensable for improving medical research on the heart and related diseases.

We recently saw a similar map in which the neurons analyzed were not those of the heart but those of the brain. In it 25,000 neurons with more than 20 million synapses could be observed.

More information | Thomas Jefferson University

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