In recent years the Drosophila heart has become an established model of many different aspects of human cardiac disease. This model has allowed identification of disease-causing mechanisms underlying congenital heart disease and cardiomyopathies and has permitted the study underlying genetic, metabolic and age-related contributions to heart function. In this review we discuss methods currently employed in the analysis of the Drosophila heart structure and function, such as optical methods to infer heart function and performance, electrophysiological and mechanical approaches to characterize cardiac tissue properties, and conclude with histological techniques used in the study of heart development and adult structure.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Many of the major discoveries in the fields of genetics and developmental biology have been made using the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. With regard to heart development, the conserved network of core cardiac transcription factors that underlies cardiogenesis has been studied in great detail in the fly, and the importance of several signaling pathways that regulate heart morphogenesis, such as Slit/Robo, was first shown in the fly model. Recent technological advances have led to a large increase in the genomic data available from patients with congenital heart disease (CHD). This has highlighted a number of candidate genes and gene networks that are potentially involved in CHD. To validate genes and genetic interactions among candidate CHD-causing alleles and to better understand heart formation in general are major tasks. The specific limitations of the various cardiac model systems currently employed (mammalian and fish models) provide a niche for the fly model, despite its evolutionary distance to vertebrates and humans. Here, we review recent advances made using the Drosophila embryo that identify factors relevant for heart formation. These underline how this model organism still is invaluable for a better understanding of CHD.
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