Introduction: DIY Electro Dough Heart Cell (Cardiomyocyte)

Picture of DIY Electro Dough Heart Cell (Cardiomyocyte)

Hearts are made up of tiny cells with special qualities that make them perfect for doing their job. They are shaped like long rectangles and can contract and relax together with neighbouring cells by sending electrical signals. This allows the whole heart to beat as one. Can you make a heart cell out of Electro Dough that has all the right qualities to work?

Step 1: You Will Need:

  • Batch of Electro Dough (or shop bought playdough)
  • Straws
  • Scissors

From the DIY Electro Dough kit.

  • Power pack
  • LED

Step 2: Make a Rectangular Cell

Picture of Make a Rectangular Cell

Make a long rectangular shaped cell from Electro Dough.

Step 3: ​Make It Springy.

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Add the uniform structure to the cell. These are called striations - the proteins for contraction are in tidy rows, like a spring.

Step 4: Add the Ion Channels.

Picture of Add the Ion Channels.

Cut short sections of straw and push them into the cell to represent the Ion Channels. These tunnels let salt in and out of the cells to make them electrically charged.

Step 5: ​...and Some Calcium.

Picture of ​...and Some Calcium.

Use small balls of dough or beads to represent the calcium. This is stored inside the cell to trigger contractions.

Step 6: Now Make Another One!

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Heart Cells communicate with their neighbours using electrical pulses . This space between the cells is called a Gap junction. You will need another cell to test this.

Step 7: Time to Test the Gap Junction.

Picture of Time to Test the Gap Junction.

This is the electrical connection between the cells.

• Place the Led’s long leg is in the cell connected to the red + cable from the battery pack.

• Place the short leg is in the cell connected to the black - cable from the battery pack.

Flick the battery pack switch to ON - Is the light glowing ?

Yes, your Gap Junction is working.

(try flipping your LED around if it is not working, or check the cells are not touching making a short circuit)

Step 8: Well Done.

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You have made a model of a working heart cell.

Step 9: Acknowledgements

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This Creative Engagement is a collaboration between Researchers from the Imperial College, London and Technology Will Save Us on behalf of the The National Heart and Lung Institute.

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