Computational model for early cardiac looping

Ashok Ramasubramanian, Kimberly S. Latacha, Jessica M. Benjamin, Dmitry A. Voronov, Arvind Ravi, Larry A. Taber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Looping is a vital event during early cardiac morphogenesis, as the initially straight heart tube bends and twists into a curved tube, laying out the basic pattern of the future four-chambered heart. Despite intensive study for almost a century, the biophysical mechanisms that drive this process are not well understood. To explore a recently proposed hypothesis for looping, we constructed a finite element model for the embryonic chick heart during the first phase of looping, called c-looping. The model includes the main structures of the early heart (heart tube, omphalomesenteric veins, and dorsal mesocardium), and the analysis features realistic three-dimensional geometry, nonlinear passive and active material properties, and anisotropic growth. As per our earlier hypothesis for c-looping, actin-based morpho-genetic processes (active cell shape change, cytoskeletal contraction, and cell migration) are simulated in specific regions of the model. The model correctly predicts the initial gross morphological shape changes of the heart, as well as distributions of morphogenetic stresses and strains measured in embryonic chick hearts. The model was tested further in studies that perturbed normal cardiac morphogenesis. The model, taken together with the new experimental data, supports our hypothesis for the mechanisms that drive early looping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1355-1369
Number of pages15
JournalAnnals of biomedical engineering
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Chick embryo
  • Finite element modeling
  • Heart development
  • Morphogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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