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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 29, 2017

The three-dimensional fine structure of the human heart: a scanning electron microscopic atlas for research and education

  • Paulína Gálfiová EMAIL logo , Štefan Polák , Renáta Mikušová , Andrea Gažová , Daniel Kosnáč , Tomáš Barczi , Ján Kyselovič and Ivan Varga
From the journal Biologia


Knowledge about the three-dimensional fine structure of human heart, as a crucial vital organ of the body, is not only fascinating from the scientific or educational points of view, but has a very important clinical impact. Therefore, we decided to create a three-dimensional atlas of fine structure of the human heart. Tissue samples from ten human hearts were rinsed in phosphate-buffer solution, fixed by glutaraldehyde buffered solution, and post-fixed in osmium tetroxide solution. A gentle dehydration with ethanol in different concentration and drying at the critical point of CO2 were applied as next procedures. Non-conductive specimens were galvanized with thin gold layer and observed in scanning electron microscope. In this study, we present the three-dimensional ultrastructural architecture of the human heart from patients after myocardial infarction, end-stage failing heart as well as without apparent cardiac abnormalities at the time of autopsy. The results are presented as a histological atlas. Its images illustratively describe the fine structure of endocardium including the morphology of Purkyně (Purkinje) fibres, spatial arrangements of cardiac muscle cells inside myocardium or the arrangements of adipose tissue of epicardium. We present also figures of the ultrastructure of papillary muscles, intercalated discs as well as the connective tissue scars after myocardial infarction. The scanning electron microscopy could be a reliable technique to perform a more complete morphological data and to improve our knowledge of some pathological changes of tissues and cells, not always detected by conventional morphological examinations.



scanning electron microscopy.

  1. Conflict of interest: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


This study was supported by Grant of the Slovak Research and Development Agency No. APVV-0434-12 “Morphological characterization of reparative and regenerative mechanisms in myocardium during chronic diseases”. The authors thank Professor Ludovit Danihel, MD, PhD. and Pavol Janega, MD, PhD. from the Institute of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Comenius University in Bratislava, and Michal Hulman, MD, PhD. from the Department of Cardiac Surgery, The National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases in Bratislava, Slovakia, for their help and assistance during obtaining of the tissue samples.


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Received: 2017-10-20
Accepted: 2017-12-20
Published Online: 2017-12-29
Published in Print: 2017-12-20

© 2017 Institute of Molecular Biology, Slovak Academy of Sciences

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