A new study shows that a baby’s first heartbeat may occur as early as 16 days after conception, rather than the three weeks previously thought. The study is being considered a potentially vital breakthrough for treating congenital heart disease since researchers will be able to understand the initiation of the heart’s function in the developing baby.
According to the University of Oxford, where the study was conducted:
In the study, published in the journal eLife, researchers looked at the developing mouse heart and found that the muscle started to contract as soon as it formed the cardiac crescent – an early stage in heart development. In mice, this crescent forms 7.5 days after conception, which is equivalent to day 16 in the human embryo. Previously, it was thought that the heart started to contract a stage later, when the heart appears as a linear tube.
Researchers hail this finding as crucial; twelve babies a day in the UK are born with congenital heart disease, and such knowledge of heart development could help medical professionals both treat these babies, as well as prevent heart attacks later in life.
The heart is the first organ to form during pregnancy and is critical in providing oxygen and nutrients to the developing embryo. The process of heart development is highly conserved between mammalian species, meaning that these findings may add considerably to our understanding of how the human heart develops.
BHF Professor Paul Riley, who led the research at the University of Oxford’s Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, said: ‘We are trying to better understand how the heart develops, and ultimately what causes the heart defects that develop in the womb before birth and to extrapolate to adult heart repair.
By finding out how the heart first starts to beat and how problems can arise in heart development, we are one step closer to being able to prevent heart conditions from arising during pregnancy.’
The implications of this study for the pro-life movement are profound. Most women have not yet confirmed a pregnancy at just 16 days after conception, and this finding further shows that even early abortions stop a beating heart. The entire study is available here, and it details the methods the researchers used to pinpoint the developing fetal heartbeat, which included “adding fluorescent markers to calcium molecules within the mouse embryo, the team was able to see at exactly which point in time the calcium tells our heart muscle cells to contract and then become coordinated enough to produce a heartbeat.”
The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) at the University of Oxford, is the latest in a stream of evidence which shows that life unequivocally begins early in fetal development, weeks and even months before abortion is regulated, even in the most restrictive states.
The scientific nonprofit, The Endowment for Human Development has produced a video showing a baby’s heart beating at only 4.5 weeks after fertilization (which is 6.5 weeks according to LMP dating). EHD partnered with National Geographic to make the award-winning documentary, “The Biology of Prenatal Development.”