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The importance of the developmental approach for experimental and clinical cardiology is indisputable. Clinical-epidemiological studies have clearly shown that the risk factors of serious cardiovascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis and ischemic heart disease, are already present during the early phases of ontogenetic development. Furthermore, congenital cardiovascular malformations remain the single largest cause of infant mortality from congenital defects in industrialized countries. It is therefore not surprising that the interest of theoretical and clinical cardiologists in the developmental approach keeps increasing. Developmental cardiology is now in the molecular era, and our understanding of cardiogenesis is expanding exponentially. Recent advances in new methodology, particularly molecular biology and genetics, may substantially help in the laborious search for a better understanding of the pathogenetic mechanisms responsible for different types of cardiovascular diseases. Nevertheless, molecular analysis in developmental cardiology is unthinkable without a comprehensive and well integrated view of the field.
This focused issue is based on papers presented at the International symposium on The Developing Heart. The 15th World Congress of the International Society for Heart Research (ISHR) in Prague in 1995 provided for the first time in the history of ISHR a useful scientific forum for a meeting of developmental cardiologists to discuss problems related to this topic from the molecule up to the patient’s bed. We wanted to provide the scientific milieu for renewal of this stimulating discussion and, hopefully, create a small tradition of the Prague meetings on the developing heart. This issue contains some sample papers for the benefit of those who were unable to attend the symposium.