Normal development of the mouse embryonic heart was studied at the organ level using microdissection and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Altogether 225 embryos, sampled at 8-hour intervals between 11ed (ed = embryonic day; day of vaginal plug = led) and 15ed were collected. Their hearts were fixed by high flow-low pressure perfusion, micro-dissected, and observed in SEM. Standardized frontal, right profile, and left profile SEM micrographs were obtained and analyzed.

The main purpose of this study was to create a series of normal stages of mouse cardiac development as a reference for ongoing studies in experimental cardiac teratology (e.g., in fetal mouse trisomies). Comparisons with chick, human, and dog embryonic hearts, prepared using the same technique, show that the mouse embryonic heart is characterized by a relatively deep interventricular sulcus. The absence of a conoventricular sulcus in the mouse results in poor definition of the boundary between the conus and the right ventricle. The external separation of the aorta and the pulmonary artery is evident from 13ed onward. The respective positions of the great arteries (aorta dextroposterior, pulmonary artery sinistroanterior) does not change until the end of cardiac organogenesis (15ed in the mouse).