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The heart is arguably the most important organ in the body, supporting all other organ systems. Therefore, it must be able to adapt to change. One way the heart handles changes in pressure and/or volume is by enlarging its ventricles, otherwise called hypertrophy, to maintain its pumping capacity. Hypertrophy can be a healthy, physiological change or a maladaptive, pathological change. Healthy, physiological change (often seen in athletes) is reversible with stresses being placed on the heart periodically and having no adverse effects on function. In opposition is pathological hypertrophy, which is irreversible, with stress being constantly placed on the heart. The constant stress on the heart leads to disfunction and ultimately heart failure. During pregnancy, hypertrophy of the heart is to be expected, to handle changes in blood volume needed to support development of the fetus. Hypertrophy in pregnancy shares similar characteristics to that of physiological hypertrophy, being that it is reversible: However, pregnancy induced hypertrophy also shares traits of pathological hypertrophy with hemodynamic stresses being constantly placed on the heart. Therefore, the goal is to determine whether pregnancy induced hypertrophy aligns more closely to a physiological or pathological function or a new category in between. This goal will be accomplished by comparing the function and morphologies of cardiac myocytes between late pregnancy, post-partum, and non-pregnant controls. By studying cardiac myocytes at these different stages, any possible disfunction of the heart immediately before or after labor can be determined.
Douglas, Matthew, "Early Post-Partum Changes in the Murine Heart" (2019). Biology Honors Papers. 28.