The heart of things

by Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen

There is no life without a heart. And none without a beat. Which is why the heart is one of the first organs to be formed - albeit in a rudimentary fashion - very early on in life; as early as two weeks in the human embryo which, at that point, bears little resemblance to a human being. The heart is such a vital part of us that it has been a symbol of life for millennia, as it has of love, because so many of our emotions pass through it, either making it flutter, skip a beat or beat faster. It is so central that a lot of time, thought and energy is put into keeping a heart pulsing, be it during an operation or following cardiac arrest. Some hearts are also born lazy, which can be seriously disabling. Pacemakers are an answer to this, but they are artificial so have their drawbacks. A biological alternative, however, known as T-box transcription factor Tbx18, could prove to be revolutionary in the near future.

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Protein Spotlight (ISSN 1424-4721) is a monthly review written by the Swiss-Prot team of the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. Spotlight articles describe a specific protein or family of proteins on an informal tone. Follow us: Subscribe · Twitter · Facebook

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