X-ray phase and absorption radiographs and tomograms of the heart of a rat were taken with an X-ray grating interferometer with monochromatic synchrotron radiation at a photon energy of 17.5 keV. The phase images show largely superior quality with respect to the absorption images taken with the same dose, particularly much better contrast and contrast-to-noise ratio. Different tissues can clearly be distinguished. The results demonstrate the potential of grating interferometry for two- and three-dimensional X-ray imaging of biological soft tissue in an aqueous environment. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.