In this project, you will address how embryonic cells develop into distinct cardiac cell types and form a heart. Addressing this question has important implications for our understanding of congenital heart diseases -affecting ~1% of newborns- and the design of regenerative methods targeting specific populations of heart cells.
Our heart comprises four chambers, two ventricles and two atria, driving blood from the body to the lungs and through the rest of the body. We recently demonstrated ventricular and atrial cardiac progenitors have distinct spatial and temporal origins in the primitive streak. We further demonstrated that the primitive streak cells contributing to the ventricles have a distinct molecular signature from those forming the atria. Anterior regions of the primitive streak -expressing low levels of the T-box transcription factor T- contribute to the ventricles. In contrast, the posterior primitive streak -expressing high levels of T- contributes to the atria. These observations suggest cardiac progenitors are already prespecified in the streak, and this may prefigure their allocation to distinct anatomical structures of the heart.