In a strange research, the scientists have converted a spinach leaf into a tiny, beating human heart muscle complete with blood and vessels. This experiment one day might help doctors repair damaged organs.
A biomedical research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) changed the leaf’s plant cells to human ones. They transformed the plant veins into a delicate blood vessel network.
Their work will be published in the May 2017 volume of the science journal Biomaterials.
They said they were inspired by spinach’s naturally occurring vein system. The leaf has different function unlike humans but its veins have a pattern similar to vascular veins in the human heart. Researchers have struggled much to recreate the delicate details through tissue-growing techniques, like 3-D printing.
WPI graduate student and study co-author Joshua Gershlak said, “Without that vascular network, you get a lot of tissue death.”
When the researchers removed the plant cells from the spinach leaf, there was only frame made out of cellulose, a biocompatible material that’s already been used for medical purposes like wound healing.
They then added human cells, after enough human tissue flourished on the plant scaffolding, the researchers sent fluids through it to prove blood could flow through a similar system in the future.
This could solve the problem of organ donation. In America, there are more than 100,000 patients on the national transplant waiting list and twenty-two of them die each day.
The team expects that human tissue made out of spinach leaves could be implanted into patients with damaged hearts which restoring the blood flow to areas of the organ that have been destroyed by disease, infection and trauma.
But this vegetable transplant would not come so early. This process needs more time, more research before the scientists can determine whether plant tissue can be successfully implanted in humans.
Study co-author Glenn Gaudette said, “We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising. To be able to just take something as simple as a spinach leaf, which is an abundant plant, and actually turn that into a tissue that has the potential for blood to flow through it, is really very, very exciting, and we hope it’s going to be a significant advancement in the field.”
He said like spinach, broccoli and cauliflower have a 3-D structure similar to human lungs.