Physiology of Cardiac Development: From Genetics to Signaling to Therapeutic Strategies

Curr Opin Physiol. 2018 Feb;1:123-139. doi: 10.1016/j.cophys.2017.09.002. Epub 2017 Dec 13.


The heart is one of the first organs to form and function during embryonic development. It is comprised of multiple cell lineages, each integral for proper cardiac development, and include cardiomyocytes, endothelial cells, epicardial cells and neural crest cells. The molecular mechanisms regulating cardiac development and morphogenesis are dependent on signaling crosstalk between multiple lineages through paracrine interactions, cell-ECM interactions, and cell-cell interactions, which together, help facilitate survival, growth, proliferation, differentiation and migration of cardiac tissue. Aberrant regulation of any of these processes can induce developmental disorders and pathological phenotypes. Here, we will discuss each of these processes, the genetic factors that contribute to each step of cardiac development, as well as the current and future therapeutic targets and mechanisms of heart development and disease. Understanding the complex interactions that regulate cardiac development, proliferation and differentiation is not only vital to understanding the causes of congenital heart defects, but to also finding new therapeutics that can treat both pediatric and adult cardiac disease in the near future.

Keywords: congenital; development; disease; genetics; heart; signaling.