'The broken heart': This image reveals the remarkable 3D structure of an adult mouse heart. The optical projection tomography (OPT) technique used here is being developed to allow us to better measure the extent of injury after heart attack, and to assess


They may look like works of art but do not be mistaken, these are in fact images created during the course of heart research.

These pictures are the winning entries of the British Heart Foundation's ‘Reflections of Research’ competition. The annual contest aims to find the most interesting and unusual images of the heart and blood vessels created through medical research.

This year's winning entry 'The Broken Heart' was submitted by Dr Gillian Gray, Megan Swim and Harris Morrison from the University of Edinburgh. The striking image is a 3D structure of a mouse heart created through optical projection tomography (OPT). The technique allows scientists to assess the extent of damage to the heart after an attack.

Other winners in the competition included a submission called 'Caught in the net' which captured an image of a developing heart in a two-day-old zebrafish, and 'At the heart of a cell', an image of heart-shaped nucleus from a vascular cell.

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The charity has also released a series of videos showing further heart research:

This video is of a criss-cross heart, a rare condition affecting people from birth. The top chambers of the heart – called the atria – should pump blood down to the lower chambers, the ventricles, directly below. But here, the heart is pumping blood incorrectly. This technology could help improve our understanding of this complex condition.


The first part of the video shows the developing heart and lungs in cross section, looking from above. The second shows a heart with a defect – it has a hole in the wall that separates the lower heart chambers. Better understanding of this kind of heart defect could lead to new ways of preventing the condition.


This video shows what happens in a mouse heart after a heart attack. Healthy muscle in an area of the lower heart is replaced by inflexible scar tissue, but blood supply is maintained – which gives hope for future ways of mending the heart after a heart attack.



This time-lapse video shows a vascular smooth muscle cell from a human blood vessel engulfing a dying neighbour. Blue flashes show the rise and fall of calcium levels, showing the importance of calcium in this process. This improves our understanding of how smooth muscle cells help to clear dead cells in diseased blood vessels.