Vortex dynamics in trabeculated embryonic ventricles

Nicholas A. Battista, Dylan R. Douglas, Andrea N. Lane, Leigh Ann Samsa, Jiandong Liu, Laura A. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Proper heart morphogenesis requires a delicate balance between hemodynamic forces, myocardial activity, morphogen gradients, and epigenetic signaling, all of which are coupled with genetic regulatory networks. Recently both in vivo and in silico studies have tried to better understand hemodynamics at varying stages of veretebrate cardiogenesis. In particular, the intracardial hemodynamics during the onset of trabeculation is notably complex-the inertial and viscous fluid forces are approximately equal at this stage and small perturbations in morphology, scale, and steadiness of the flow can lead to significant changes in bulk flow structures, shear stress distributions, and chemical morphogen gradients. The immersed boundary method was used to numerically simulate fluid flow through simplified two-dimensional and stationary trabeculated ventricles of 72, 80, and 120 h post fertilization wild type zebrafish embryos and ErbB2-inhibited embryos at seven days post fertilization. A 2D idealized trabeculated ventricular model was also used to map the bifurcations in flow structure that occur as a result of the unsteadiness of flow, trabeculae height, and fluid scale (Re). Vortex formation occurred in intertrabecular regions for biologically relevant parameter spaces, wherein flow velocities increased. This indicates that trabecular morphology may alter intracardial flow patterns and hence ventricular shear stresses and morphogen gradients. A potential implication of this work is that the onset of vortical (disturbed) flows can upregulate Notch1 expression in endothelial cells in vivo and hence impacts chamber morphogenesis, valvulogenesis, and the formation of the trabeculae themselves. Our results also highlight the sensitivity of cardiac flow patterns to changes in morphology and blood rheology, motivating efforts to obtain spatially and temporally resolved chamber geometries and kinematics as well as the careful measurement of the embryonic blood rheology. The results also suggest that there may be significant changes in shear signalling due to morphological and mechanical variation across individuals and species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiac fluid dynamics
  • Cavity flow
  • Fluid dynamics
  • Heart development
  • Immersed boundary method
  • Trabeculae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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