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Heart in a Dish

One way to learn how something works is to take it apart. But researchers in Nenad Bursac’s lab use the opposite approach – to understand human tissue, they build it themselves. Graduate student Chris Jackman is engineering synthetic tissue that mimics the structure and function of heart muscle. To create this heart-in-a-dish, he embedded red-striped mouse heart muscle cells into a hydrogel base. Blue spots show the nucleus of each cell, and green lines show where cells are joined together. The team uses this engineered heart tissue to study how healthy heart muscle works and how diseases might develop.