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A High-Res 3D Video of the Embryonic Heartbeat 207

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at the University of Houston, TX, adapted an imaging technique called optical coherence tomography to capture 3D video of the mammalian heart as it forms. They used the method to image a mouse embryo just 8.5 days past conception and about a day after it starts to form. In the remarkable video a normal heartbeat is visible. Normally optical coherence tomography is used for clinical imaging of the retina. Having such a high-resolution, non-invasive way to image the developing heart could perhaps help doctors treat congenital heart disorders in human babies."
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A High-Res 3D Video of the Embryonic Heartbeat

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  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @07:24PM (#29867757)

    You can get arbitrarily good images of fixed (dead) embryos, but live imaging using any method is damn tough, and live 3D imaging at this resolution is, as far as I know, unprecedented. Motion makes it nearly impossible to do MR or CT 3D imaging. You can gate against the cardiac cycle to image a single animal, but nobody can yet gate against a fetal heartbeat in a mouse. I'm not even sure if that would be enough, because the maternal heartbeat contributes significant motion, too.

    One of our doctoral students did a 3D atlas of the embryonic mouse using MR microscopy []. These were fixed specimens, but they're isotropic (the same spatial resolution in all three dimensions), and nobody's come close to matching our resolution as far as I know. Part of her work was looking at cardiac septal defects, which you pretty much have to study in embryos, because they aren't compatible with live birth.

    One drawback of OCT is that it fails if you have to go through much tissue. Mice are tiny enough to make this work possible, but I don't think there's any way you could do it in humans, short of inserting a source/detector into the uterus, which kind of spoils the whole "non-invasive" feature.

  • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd.bandrowsky@gma i l .com> on Sunday October 25, 2009 @07:34PM (#29867817) Homepage Journal

    And yes, for the anti-abortion readers

    Oh, the great irony of politics is that Darwin is firmly on the right wing side. In the end, the earth belongs to those who have the most babies, and, all those things you advocate, undermine your own culture as much as they undermine your genes. A quick spin of the globe shows that religious societies are the ones producing the most children - and secular societies the least. You can condemn Islam's male domination, or the quaint traditions of American Christianity, but, the fact is, they are the ones having the babies while secular people are not.

    So sure, please, believe it: marriage and having a person stay at home is quaint.... if you get your girlfriend pregnant, its better to get rid of the child than to ruin your lives, believe all of it. If we can then privatize schools and do the other things so that your input to our culture can be blocked, we can exterminate liberalism all the more quickly, simply by out-breeding it. But, at the end of the day, your way of life is doomed, simply because, for better or for worse, our religious culture has been evolved by hundreds of generations of human cultural evolution, and your culture will fall by the wayside as much as your genes will perish forever in the dust.

  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @08:12PM (#29867989)

    They spoke well of the morning after pill. That does a decent job of dealing with rape (though it doesn't give the woman in question a great deal of time to consider the issue).

  • Individual rights. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @02:02AM (#29869423) Homepage Journal

    I haven't conclusively figured out where to put the boundaries for individual rights. Anyone who thinks these issues are simple is either naive or a genius on a level I'll never be able to reach. Morality in the real world is messy and arbitrary for everyone who hasn't locked himself into a moral system prescribed by an omnipotent, omniscient deity.

    Morality hinges on human experience. It is not a mathematical problem, and approaching it as if it were only overcomplicates an otherwise, often simple, problem.

    Most of Judeo-Christian morality can be deduced by simply paying attention to the plight of others. What is seemingly arbitrary is often the result of our collective experience.

    As an example, I'll use homosexuality. According to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, it's wrong. But why?

    I honestly didn't know the answer. Why would God care if someone found sexual pleasure in a unique way? He wants us to be happy, right?

    I didn't find out until after I had married and had a child. I remember an experience, my son and I in the kitchen, eating breakfast. He spontaneously bursts out, "Daddy and me! Daddy and me! Daddy and me!". In that moment I looked at a person who was a part of the same flesh and blood as my wife and I and it filled me with indescribable joy. I had *no idea* being a father could be so rewarding.

    But most homosexuals will never experience this joy, let alone know it exists. Sure, I could describe it a million times, but I remember what it was like when I was single. I really couldn't grasp sex as anything more than an intensely physical pleasure, and the sarcastic rejoinder, "yeah, better than sex" made sense to me. Now it just sounds stupid, as if the person saying it is trying to tell the world how immature and petty they really are. But in having children I discovered that God wants us not merely to enjoy sex, but to have the whole package - marriage and children as well!

    And yet, you will find people who have never had children despise the notion of having them. They simply cannot understand - as I did not, prior to having children - the joy of having children. In a similar manner, someone afflicted with homosexual desires, often simply can't understand why they would resist temptation. The first time I met a homosexual, it was immediately apparent to me that they were undergoing an epic internal struggle, the least of which concerned their sexuality. Yet, to them, this condition has persisted for so long it felt "normal" And without the ability to defer judgment to another's experience, they saw no reason to change. Without any understanding that things could be better, they thought of my position as merely trying to take away what little happiness they did posses. (As if I woke up in the morning and said, "Who can I hate today!?")

    Most objections to Judeo-Christian morality are rooted in two causes:

    1. Personal vice.
    2. Inexperience.

    The first is almost never philosophical. The second is almost invariably philosophical, but dwells on matters in which the philosopher has no actual experience. Having actually seen someone die unexpectedly, it is very clear to me that all human life is valued by God. Until that happened, the abortion issue for me had been largely a philosophical exercise. It wasn't until I witnessed the death of a human being that my mind changed dramatically. But I realize that most reading this have not had that experience.

    In fact, most of us will never have all of the experiences which shaped the Torah or the Bible. We simply have to trust that these tenets of morality were written down and copied throughout the ages because enough people recognized the value and truth in them. But how can we as a society trust the experience of others, when we are so arrogant that we think we already know everything?

  • Re:Cool tech. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bhartman34 ( 886109 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @10:12AM (#29871995)

    I never understood the "pro-life" (actually more like anti-health) movement. A fetus is nothing special. Because a human is nothing special. It is very arrogant to think that we're oh-so-special. We're not. Life in itself is nothing special. It's just a state of the machine of the class "lifeform". You can make a new fetus in what? Weeks? And this time a healthy one. One that is more likely to create healthy offspring. Or even offspring at all.

    The numbers of people who have a very hard time making children grows like crazy. With the current trend, in 3 generations, there will be no human left in the western world, who can reproduce without advanced medical help. A few generations later we're done. At least if we continue to go that way.

    There are at least two problems with this line of thinking:

    1) It reduces human beings to the level of disposable widgets. While it's true that there's nothing special about the human species on a biological level, actually behaving that way leads to some very dark places.
    2) I can't speak for everyone, but I consider my life pretty damn special, and I would take particular, violent exception to anyone who intended to treat it as trivially expendable.

    If you want to talk about it on an evolutionary level, the way you get biological diversity is to not kill off your offspring. Sure, badly deformed offspring probably wouldn't live to reproduce anyway, but the current abortion climate goes well beyond that, into eliminating healthy offspring. (Last time I checked, being poor or underprivileged was not a congenital birth defect. And I should know, since I have such a birth defect.)

    If the issue is really babies being born to drug-addicted mothers, or being born into abusive homes, how about treating drug addiction and improving child welfare services? Wouldn't that work out just a tad better than allowing the hellish conditions to persist and just endeavoring to make sure that children were never born into them? After all, you can't force an unfit mother to have an abortion any more than you can force someone to be a good parent.

    As to the article itself: I think the technology will be used for both treatment and abortions. Some couples will go in one direction, some will go in the other. It's the same with most pre-natal screening. The technology, broadly speaking, allows the couple to make an informed decision about what they want to do. Their actual decision could go either way.

  • by Voyager529 ( 1363959 ) <[voyager529] [at] []> on Monday October 26, 2009 @12:22PM (#29873593)

    I can't speak for everyone, so I'll just speak for myself. I'm a Christian. I'm pro-life. My religious beliefs give me guidance as to how I am supposed to live my own life. Because of my religious beliefs, I take my vacation days and volunteer to help feed homeless people in poorer areas where I live. I personally have walked around public areas and helped pick up trash. I lend my listening ear to my friends who are going through difficult times. I encourage my female friends to respect themselves and not buy into our culture of skin deep beauty. I donate money to charities like Love146 who work to end child sex trafficking in other areas of the world. I'm not trying to brag about all the wonderful things I've done in my life (indeed, I've got a laundry list of things that I'm not proud of, either), but you asked what good religious beliefs are. Mine emplore me to provide assistance toward others to who require it.

    Do I tell people about my beliefs? yes, I do. I do tell them about sin and heaven and hell and salvation and the sacrifice that Christ made. But it's not conditional. I don't make people say "the sinner's prayer" in order to get a cup of soup or bottle of water. I do my very best to not be condescending or confrontational to someone I am speaking with. My purpose isn't to force my beliefs on others, but I would be remiss to not inform. If, after me speaking with someone, they choose to reject it, then that's their choice and I will not force them otherwise. To do so would be inconsistent with the principles Jesus taught.

    Many people inevitably bring up things like the manipulative practices of the church during the middle ages, they hypocrisy of churchgoers, money-grabbing televangelists, the nagging people on the sidewalk with the bullhorns, and yes, the people who kill abortion doctors. I cannot answer for any of them. All I can say is that Jesus never separated loving God from loving other people. To force one's beliefs on another person is unloving to that person, and therefore does not express love toward God, and that if I have ever come across as unloving or uncaring toward another person, that I am truly sorry.

    You'll get no argument from me that if there's anything that Christians are good at, that it's shooting ourselves in the foot. Mahatma Gandhi once stated, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.", and he was embarrassingly correct. Here's to hoping that somehow I manage to provide an exception.

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission