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High-resolution in vivo imaging of higher vertebrate embryos over short or long time periods under constant physiological conditions is a technically challenging task for researchers working on cardiovascular development. In chick embryos, for example, various studies have shown that without appropriate maintenance of temperature, as one of the main environmental factors, the embryonic heart rate drops rapidly and often results in an increase in regurgitant flow. Hemodynamic parameters are critical stimuli for cardiovascular development that, for a correct evaluation of their developmental significance, should be documented under physiological conditions. However, previous studies were mostly carried out outside of an incubator or under suboptimal environmental conditions. Here we present, to the best of our knowledge, the first detailed description of an optical coherence tomography (OCT) system integrated into an examination incubator to facilitate real-time in vivo imaging of cardiovascular development under physiological environmental conditions. We demonstrate the suitability of this OCT examination incubator unit for use in cardiovascular development studies by examples of proof of principle experiments. We, furthermore, point out the need for use of examination incubators for physiological OCT examinations by documenting the effects of room climate (22 ◦C) on the performance of the cardiovascular system of chick embryos (HH-stages 16/17). Upon exposure to room climate, chick embryos showed a fast drop in the heart rate and striking changes in the cardiac contraction behaviour and the blood flow through the vitelline circulation. We have documented these changes for the first time by M-mode OCT and Doppler M-mode OCT.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Anatomy
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)425-435
StatePublished - 2011
CitationsWeb of Science® Times Cited: 7


  • Optical coherence tomography, Examination incubator, Cardiovascular development
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ID: 5758399