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Spinach Leaf Transformed Into Beating Human Heart Tissue

Posted By: Best Brains Sep-18, 2017

spinach-leaf-transformation

Using a plant for either cleaning or repairing purposes is quite common these days. Scientists have created a little version of a working heart, which may assist in tissue regeneration one day.

Scientists found a new way to use spinach to build a working human heart muscle, which will potentially solve a long-standing problem in efforts to repair damaged organs. The details of the study are published in the journal Biomaterials, explaining the new way to grow a vascular system, which has been a roadblock for tissue engineering.

Scientists have already created large-scale human tissue in a lab using 3D method printing, but it was proved to be much harder to grow the small, delicate blood vessels that are vital to the tissue's health.

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As per the co-author Joshua Gershlak, the main limiting factor for tissue engineering - is the lack of a vascular network. This is proved that without that vascular network, you get a lot of tissue death.

decellularized-spinach-leaf

Above is the image of a decellularized spinach leaf; before dye is added to test its ability to filter blood through the tissue.

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In the second image, you can see the picture of a spinach leaf after it successfully revealed red dye could be pumped through its veins, simulating the blood, oxygen and nutrients that a human heart tissue needs to grow.

However, one of the crucial traits of a leaf is the branching network of thin veins that delivers water and nutrients to its cells. At present, scientists have used plant veins to redo the way blood moves through human tissue. This work involves transforming a spinach leaf in the lab to eliminate its plant cells, which leaves behind a frame made of cellulose.

Cellulose is biocompatible and has been used in a wide variety of reformative medicine applications, such as bone tissue engineering, cartilage tissue engineering, and wound healing.  The team then covered the remaining plant frame in live human cells, so that the human tissue grew on the spinach's support and surrounded the tiny veins. Once they transformed the spinach leaf into a sort of mini heart, then the team sent fluids and microbeads through its veins to illustrate how blood cells can flow through this system.

Though the ultimate goal is to replace damaged tissue in patients who have had heart attacks or who suffered from other cardiac issues that prevent their hearts from contracting. Like blood vessels, the veins in the modified leaves would supply oxygen to the entire swath of replacement tissue, which is crucial in generating new heart matter.

While the study team has confirmed the same methods could be used with different types of plants to heal a variety of tissues in the body. For instance, swapping out the cells in wood might one day help repair human bones.

Researchers say that they have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising, and the study co-author Glenn Gaudette, also of WPI, said in a press statement that adapting abundant plants that farmers have been cultivating for thousands of years, are helpful in the use of tissue engineering and could solve a host of problems limiting the field.