Alyssa Benjamin '17, Biology

Persistent truncus arteriosus (PTA) is a severe congenital heart disease that often occurs in patients with 22q11 deletion syndrome (DiGeorge Syndrome). In this defect, the primitive truncus does not divide into the pulmonary artery and aorta in embryonic development, resulting in a mixture of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood entering the systemic and coronary circulations. Our research used a mouse model of PTA with the goal of developing an imaging and reconstruction procedure to make anatomical measurements and create 3D reconstructions of the ventricles and outflow tract from whole-mount, embryonic-day 12.5 mouse hearts for comparison of control and PTA hearts. The work required a range of skills: development of handling and transfer methods for the cleared hearts that were invisible to the eye; optimization of a procedure on the confocal microscope (laser power and wavelength, PMT, scan speed, line averaging); processing of images to maximize variations in signal intensity; development of metrics to compare anatomic dimensions; and creation of volumetric representations of each ventricle. 

Advisor: Professor Christine Buffinton