Dr Melanie White - The History and Principles of Langendorff

Isolated perfused heart techniques are not new, but they remain a crucial tool for cardiac research. 

Understanding the history and development of these techniques can help us see what it is we’re optimizing for and how technological progress has shaped cardiovascular research. 

In this excerpt from her latest Langendorff webinar, Dr Melanie White, an isolated heart expert from the University of Sydney, takes us through the history of isolated heart techniques and the principles that guided these developments.

Related: Future-proofing ex-vivo perfusion – updated approaches to historical principles


The History of the Isolated Heart

  • The first known isolated perfused heart was a frog heart preparation executed by Carl Ludwig and Elias Cyon in 1866. The frog heart was an ideal candidate because it is very simple, with a single central ventricle.
  • Oskar Langendorff performed isolated perfusion of mammalian hearts from 1895 onward. Langendorff used defibrinated blood in his preparation, preventing clotting while maintaining blood flow.
  • In the 1960s, Howard Morgan and James Neely converted the Langendorff model into a working heart model, following the normal physiological path of the heart rather than the reverse perfusion of the Langendorff. Morgan and Neely also introduced a new perfusate for the retrograde perfusion of the Langendorff, using a modified Krebs-Henseleit bicarbonate buffer with carbogen.

Related: Research highlight: Dissecting the diabetic heart using Langendorff and Proteomics

The Core Principles of the Langendorff Apparatus

  • Coronary circulation maintains physiological contractility
  • Retrograde perfusion using the aortic root
  • Perfusate options mimic protein-free plasma
  • Constant pressure or constant flow
  • Precise induction of therapies or hypoxia/ischemia-related approaches
  • Free of influence from other organs, systemic circulation, humoral factors, and autonomic innervation

Related: Best practices for setting-up an isolated Langendorff heart preparation


Dr. Melanie White

ARC DECRA Research Fellow
School of Medicine
University of Sydney

About the speaker...

Dr. Melanie White is a member of the Charles Perkins Society, a Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow and teaches senior students in the discipline of Pathology at the University of Sydney School of Medicine.

Her research interests include understanding more about how cells adapt to their changing environment by altering proteins using post-translational modifications. Her team’s work centers on asking these questions in clinically relevant models of myocardial ischemia (heart attack), type 2 diabetes and obesity.