Spontaneously active bundles of cardiac muscle (synthetic strands) were prepared from isolated cells of 11–13-day old embryonic chick hearts which were disaggregated with trypsin. Linear orientation of the cells was obtained by plating them on agar-coated culture dishes in which either grooves were cut in the agar film or a thin line of palladium was deposited over the agar. The influence of cell-to-cell and cell-to-substrate interactions was observed with time lapse cinematography and the formation of the synthetic strand was shown to involve both random and guided cell movements, enlargement of aggregates by accretion and coalescence, and the compact linear arrangement of cells along paths of preferential adhesion. Electron microscope investigations of these strands showed that a dispersed population of heart cells organized into an inner core of muscle cells and an outer sheath of fibroblast-like cells. The muscle cells contained well-developed, but widely spaced myofibrils, a developing sarcoplasmic reticulum associated in part with the myofibrils and in part with the sarcolemma, an abundance of nonmembrane bound ribosomes and glycogen, and a prominent Golgi complex. Numerous specialized contacts were observed between the muscle cells in the strand, e.g., fasciae adherentes, desmosomes, and nexuses. A distinct type of muscle cell characterized by its pale appearance was regularly observed in the strand and was noted to be similar to Purkinje cells described in the adult avian conduction system and in developing chick myocardium. The present findings were compared with other observations of the developing myocardium, in situ, and it was concluded that, by a number or criteria, the muscle cells of the strand were differentiating normally and suitably organized for electrophysiological studies.

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