Follow me! a tale of avian heart development with comparisons to mammal heart development

Rusty Lansford, Sandra Rugonyi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Avian embryos have been used for centuries to study development due to the ease of access. Because the embryos are sheltered inside the eggshell, a small window in the shell is ideal for visualizing the embryos and performing different interventions. The window can then be covered, and the embryo returned to the incubator for the desired amount of time, and observed during further development. Up to about 4 days of chicken development (out of 21 days of incubation), when the egg is opened the embryo is on top of the yolk, and its heart is on top of its body. This allows easy imaging of heart formation and heart development using non-invasive techniques, including regular optical microscopy. After day 4, the embryo starts sinking into the yolk, but still imaging technologies, such as ultrasound, can tomographically image the embryo and its heart in vivo. Importantly, because like the human heart the avian heart develops into a fourchambered heart with valves, heart malformations and pathologies that human babies suffer can be replicated in avian embryos, allowing a unique developmental window into human congenital heart disease. Here, we review avian heart formation and provide comparisons to the mammalian heart.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Avian embryo
  • Cardiogenesis
  • Intravital imaging
  • Laser microscopy
  • Micro computed tomography
  • Optical coherence tomography
  • Optical microscopy
  • Time lapse microscopy
  • Transgenic quail
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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