Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

When Does the Human Embryonic Heart Start Beating? A Review of Contemporary and Historical Sources of Knowledge About the Onset of Blood Circulation in Man

Version 1 : Received: 3 May 2022 / Approved: 5 May 2022 / Online: 5 May 2022 (09:56:10 CEST)

How to cite: Männer, J. When Does the Human Embryonic Heart Start Beating? A Review of Contemporary and Historical Sources of Knowledge About the Onset of Blood Circulation in Man. Preprints 2022, 2022050031 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202205.0031.v1). Männer, J. When Does the Human Embryonic Heart Start Beating? A Review of Contemporary and Historical Sources of Knowledge About the Onset of Blood Circulation in Man. Preprints 2022, 2022050031 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202205.0031.v1).

Abstract

The onset of embryonic heart beating may be regarded as the defining feature for the beginning of personal human life. Clarifying the timing of the 1st human heartbeat, therefore, has religious, philosophical, ethical, and medicolegal implications. This article reviews the historical and contemporary sources of knowledge on the beginning of human heart activity. Special attention is given to the problem of the determination of the true age of human embryos and to the problem of visualization of the human embryonic heart activity. It is shown that historical and current textbook statements about the onset of blood circulation in man do not derive from observations on living human embryos but derive from the extrapolation of observations on animal embryos to the human species. This fact does not preclude the existence of documented observations on human embryonic heart activity: Modern diagnostic (ultrasound) and therapeutic (IVF) procedures facilitate the visualization of early embryonic heart activity in precisely dated pregnancies. Such studies showed that the human heart started its pumping action during the 4th post-fertilization week. A small number of direct observations on the heart activity of aborted human embryos were reported since the 19th century but did not receive much recognition by embryologists.

Keywords

first heartbeat; human embryonic heart; human embryos; onset of blood circulation

Subject

MEDICINE & PHARMACOLOGY, Cardiology

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