Imperial College London

What do 'singing' fish have to do with heart disease...?

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A colourful lattice structure generated from scans of the midshipman fishes 'sonic' muscle

The fine structure of the 'sonic' muscle used by midshipman fish to 'sing' to their mate

Studying the fine structure of muscles used by fish to 'sing' to their mate could help researchers to better understand, and treat, heart conditions.

A better understanding of how muscle fibres contract could bring new insights into heart conditions.

To find out more, researchers from Imperial’s NHLI have turned their focus to a humming fish.

Studying the fine structure of muscles used by fish to 'sing' to their mate could help researchers to better understand, and treat, heart conditions.

Male midshipman fish use a special muscle to emit humming sounds to attract females.

The sound, which has been compared to a swarm of bees or the hum of an electric guitar amplifier, can be so loud during summer months it has disrupted the sleep of houseboat owners. 

But the ‘Z-band’ in this muscle – the region where the repeating building blocks of muscle (sarcomeres) join with one another – are extraordinarily wide and ideal for high resolution imaging.

These stunning images, obtained by Dr Pradeep Luther and team, help to show how tension is relayed between the muscle fibres.

Dr Luther explained: “Understanding normal Z-band helps us to understand the changes that occur in diseased hearts.”

The work was funded by the British Heart Foundation.

  • Midshipman fish

    A midshipman fish (Credit: Björn S...)

  • The fine basketweave structure of the fish's sonic muscle

    The fine basketweave structure of the fish's sonic muscle (Credit: Pradeep Luther et al.

  • The fine detail of the midshipman fish's sonic muscle

    The fine detail of the midshipman fish's sonic muscle (Credit: Pradeep Luther et al. PNAS 2019)

  • Cross section of healthy heart muscle from a rat

    Cross section of healthy heart muscle from a rat showing the precise width and straight boundaries between bands (Credit: Pradeep Luther et al. PNAS 2019)

  • Diseased heart muscle with a ragged Z-band

    Diseased heart muscle with a ragged Z-band (Credit: Pradeep Luther et al. PNAS 2019)

  • The ultra fine structure of the muscle fibre filaments

    The ultra fine structure of the muscle fibre filaments (Credit: Pradeep Luther et al. PNAS 2019)

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'Three-dimensional structure of the basketweave Z-band in midshipman fish sonic muscle' by Burgoyne, T. et al., is published in PNAS. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1902235116 

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Ryan O'Hare

Ryan O'Hare
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Comms-strategy-Wider-society, Cardiovascular, Animal-research, Imaging, Strategy-share-the-wonder, Global-challenges-Health-and-wellbeing
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