In an amazing breakthrough, scientists have turned a spinach leaf into working heart tissue. Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts have found a way to use spinach leaves to build working human heart muscle, conceivably solving a major problem in efforts to repair damaged organs.
The experiment is believed to help solve the problem of recreating the tiny, branching networks of blood vessels in human tissues. For the longest period of time, researchers have struggled to make large-scale human tissue – while even though they have successfully created small lab samples. Till now, they have been trying to use 3D-printing techniques to recreate delicate and intricate networks of human tissues, but without much success. It is easy to create small samples but extremely difficult to rebuild a life-size structure.
With this pathbreaking discovery, it seems turning plants with its delicate veins into human tissue could be the solution to delivering blood through a vascular system into the new tissue. Researchers hope that eventually this technique could be used to grow layers of the healthy heart muscle to treat those who have suffered a heart attack. Though transporting chemicals around the body in plants and animals are very different, the networks of capillaries by which they do so are quite similar.
One of the symbolic traits of a leaf is the branching network of intricate veins that delivers water and other nutrients to its cells. Scientists have used plant veins to replicate the way blood moves through human tissues.The study to be published in the journal Biomaterials in May reveal: “The development of decellularized plants for scaffolding opens up the potential for a new branch of science that investigates the mimicry between plant and animal.”Advertisement: Replay AdAds by ZINCFor creating the artificial heart in the experiment, the researchers removed the plant cells from the spinach leaves, which leaves behind only a frame made of cellulose. They then “seeded” the human cells into the leaves so that the human tissue could grow on the spinach scaffolding and surrounded the tiny veins. Once the little leaves turned into a structure very similar to that of a human heart, scientists sent fluids and microbeads through its veins to show that blood cells can flow through this system.“Cellulose is biocompatible [and] has been used in a wide variety of regenerative medicine applications, such as cartilage tissue engineering, bone tissue engineering, and wound healing,” the scientists elaborated in their paper.Adding that this is just a new beginning and a long road waits ahead, they said, “Adapting abundant plants that farmers have been cultivating for thousands of years for use in tissue engineering could solve a host of problems limiting the field.”