Int. J. Dev. Biol. 47: 405 - 410 (2003)
© UPV/EHU Press

Amphibian in vitro heart induction: a simple and reliable model for the study of vertebrate cardiac development.

Takashi Ariizumi, Masayoshi Kinoshita, Chika Yokota, Kazuhiro Takano, Keiichi Fukuda, Nobuo Moriyama, George M Malacinski and Makoto Asashima

Department of Experimental Nursing, Faculty of Nursing, Fukuoka Prefectural University, Fukuoka, Japan.

ABSTRACT Amphibian embryos are an excellent model system for analyzing the mechanisms of vertebrate cardiogenesis. Studies of heart development in Xenopus have, for example, revealed that the inductive interaction of the heart primordia with the adjacent underlying endoderm and dorsal lip starts at the early stages of gastrulation. However, the molecular basis of those early inductive events and the genes expressed during the early phases of heart differentiation remain largely unknown. Amphibian blastula embryos contain pluripotent cells in their ectodermal region, called the "animal cap," which fortunately can be exploited for understanding a variety of organogenesis processes. Despite an enormous potential for analysis, the use of this system in cardiogenesis research has languished due to a lack of information concerning appropriate culture methods. Herein we report conditions for generating an in vitro heart induction system and present evidence from two types of in vivo transplantations, that the cultured heart rudiment can develop and function in the adult organism. It is expected that the fundamental principles established in this model system will provide a versatile research platform for a variety of organ engineering projects, including modifying in vitro organ growth with exogenous components (e.g. various growth factors) and developing methods for preparing tissue for transplantation.