The discovery in the chick embryo that a specific region of the neural crest, termed the cardiac neural crest, is essential for septation of the cardiac outflow tract and for aortic arch artery development has led to the classification of a whole series of human cardiac defects as neural crest- associated. Recently, several mouse genetic models have been effectively employed to yield new insights into the relationship between cardiac neural crest and structural heart development. In all the animal models of neural crest-related heart defects, prenatal mortality is too high to be attributed to structural defects of the heart alone, and there are obvious signs of severe cardiac dysfunction. The evidence indicates that poor viability is from impaired cardiac excitation-contraction coupling and contractile function at the myocyte level. The continued study of experimental and genetically defined models with neural crest-associated heart defects will prove useful in identifying the common pathways by which the neural crest contributes to normal heart development.
- Excitation-contraction coupling
- Heart defect
- Heart development
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