The image looks like a satellite image of another planet with water, waterways, mountains, valleys, craters, ridges. In fact, it is a bioprosthetic heart valve leaflet. Bioprosthetic heart valves are derived from porcine aortic heart valves or from bovine pericardium (sac surrounding the heart). These heart valves fail due to calcification or due to tears in the leaflets by degeneration. To determine the calcification, the leaflets are implanted into the back of rats under their skin and analyzed for calcium using histological stains to visualize the calcium content. The image shows the reddish brown staining of calcium and greenish blue stain for the surrounding extracellular matrix. The leaflets have three organized layers of collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycans which gives rise to the wavy structure and undulations in the image. This study was targeted to reduce the amount of calcification in the leaflets by special treatments to these leaflets. This image emphasizes the importance of thorough examination rather than jumping to conclusions based on first impressions.
Funding sources for research represented by the image:
NIH Grant HL 70969