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Keywords:

  • chick embryo;
  • echocardiography;
  • heart development

Abstract

The chick embryo has long been a favorite model system for morphologic and physiologic studies of the developing heart, largely because of its easy visualization and amenability to experimental manipulations. However, this advantage is diminished after 5 days of incubation, when rapidly growing chorioallantoic membranes reduce visibility of the embryo. Using high-frequency ultrasound, we show that chick embryonic cardiovascular structures can be readily visualized throughout the period of Stages 9–39. At most stages of development, a simple ex ovo culture technique provided the best imaging opportunities. We have measured cardiac and vascular structures, blood flow velocities, and calculated ventricular volumes as early as Stage 11 with values comparable to those previously obtained using video microscopy. The endocardial and myocardial layers of the pre-septated heart are readily seen as well as the acellular layer of the cardiac jelly. Ventricular inflow in the pre-septated heart is biphasic, just as in the mature heart, and is converted to a monophasic (outflow) wave by ventricular contraction. Although blood has soft-tissue density at the ultrasound resolutions and developmental stages examined, its movement allowed easy discrimination of perfused vascular structures throughout the embryo. The utility of such imaging was demonstrated by documenting changes in blood flow patterns after experimental conotruncal banding. Developmental Dynamics 236:3503–3513, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.