In the United States, about 40,000 babies are born each year with congenital heart defects (CHDs). Improper cardiac looping is a major cause of CHDs. Cardiac looping is defined by the transformation of the straight, primitive heart tube into the more complex structure that resembles the mature heart. Looping can be divided into two stages: c-looping and s-looping. While c-looping has garnered much attention from biomechanical, biochemical, and genetic standpoints, the biophysical forces that drive s-looping warrant more attention. During early s-looping, the normal movement of the primitive ventricle to its position caudal to the common atrium is influenced by the formation of body flexure, the process in which a vertebrate embryo becomes curved during development.
We normally study the relationship between cardiac morphogenesis and body flexure formation in embryonic chicks in vitro for 10 hours of incubation after embryo harvesting. Within this timeframe, development was documented by taking images at three discrete time points (t=0, 5, and 10 hours) using light microscopy. This method, however, is insufficient in providing adequate information about the flexure progression. The utilization of a time-lapse video better illuminates this process through the collection of continuous-time data. The methodology and challenges of acquiring time lapse videos, as well as preliminary insights into cardiac morphogenesis and body flexure development from the videos will be discussed.