Two-photon microscopy-guided femtosecond-laser photoablation of avian cardiogenesis: noninvasive creation of localized heart defects

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2010 Nov;299(5):H1728-35. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00495.2010. Epub 2010 Aug 13.


Embryonic heart formation is driven by complex feedback between genetic and hemodynamic stimuli. Clinical congenital heart defects (CHD), however, often manifest as localized microtissue malformations with no underlying genetic mutation, suggesting that altered hemodynamics during embryonic development may play a role. An investigation of this relationship has been impaired by a lack of experimental tools that can create locally targeted cardiac perturbations. Here we have developed noninvasive optical techniques that can modulate avian cardiogenesis to dissect relationships between alterations in mechanical signaling and CHD. We used two-photon excited fluorescence microscopy to monitor cushion and ventricular dynamics and femtosecond pulsed laser photoablation to target micrometer-sized volumes inside the beating chick hearts. We selectively photoablated a small (∼100 μm radius) region of the superior atrioventricular (AV) cushion in Hamburger-Hamilton 24 chick embryos. We quantified via ultrasound that the disruption causes AV regurgitation, which resulted in a venous pooling of blood and severe arterial constriction. At 48 h postablation, quantitative X-ray microcomputed tomography imaging demonstrated stunted ventricular growth and pronounced left atrial dilation. A histological analysis demonstrated that the laser ablation produced defects localized to the superior AV cushion: a small quasispherical region of cushion tissue was completely obliterated, and the area adjacent to the myocardial wall was less cellularized. Both cushions and myocardium were significantly smaller than sham-operated controls. Our results highlight that two-photon excited fluorescence coupled with femtosecond pulsed laser photoablation should be considered a powerful tool for studying hemodynamic signaling in cardiac morphogenesis through the creation of localized microscale defects that may mimic clinical CHD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chick Embryo
  • Embryonic Development / physiology
  • Endocardial Cushions / embryology
  • Endocardial Cushions / physiopathology
  • Endocardial Cushions / surgery
  • Heart / embryology*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / etiology*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / physiopathology
  • Heart Ventricles / embryology
  • Heart Ventricles / physiopathology
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Laser Therapy / methods*
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Models, Animal
  • Photons*