Get access

Growth plasticity of the embryonic and fetal heart



The developing mammalian heart responds to a variety of conditions, including changes in nutrient availability, blood oxygenation, hemodynamics, or tissue homeostasis, with impressive growth plasticity. This ensures the formation of a functional and normal sized organ by birth. During embryonic and fetal development the heart is exposed to various physiological and potentially pathological changes in the intrauterine environment which dramatically impact on normal cardiac function, tissue composition, and morphology. This paper summarizes the mechanisms employed by the embryonic and fetal heart to adapt to various intrauterine challenges to prevent or minimize postnatal consequences of impaired cardiac development. Future investigations of this growth plasticity might lead to new therapeutic strategies for the prevention of cardiac disease in postnatal life.