Working Human Heart Tissue Grown On Spinach Leaf

Posted: Mar 25 2017, 3:03am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Working Human Heart Tissue Grown on Spinach Leaf
WPI Team Grows Heart Tissue on Spinach Leaves. Credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Researchers Turn Spinach Leaf into Working Human Heart Tissue

Researchers have turned a spinach leaf into human heart tissue in an amazing experiment that took place recently. Actually the vascular system of plants will help bioengineers solve a major issue of blocking the regeneration of human tissues and organs.

Scientists face the obstacle of increasing human tissue regeneration from tiny lab samples to large scale tissues, bones and even whole organs. These are meant to be transplanted in people in order to treat certain maladies and traumas.

The vascular system that serves as a blood delivery device is often missing. At present the only means of tackling this hurdle is 3D printing yet even here the fine capillaries of the human body cannot be replicated on an artificial basis.

These capillaries deliver oxygen, nutrients and important molecules that nourish the tissue. In order to get a handle on this situation, plants were turned to as vehicles of blood delivery.

In this sequence, a spinach leaf is stripped of its plant cells, a process called decellularization, using a detergent. The process leaves behind the leaf's vasculature. Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) were able to culture beating human heart cells on such decelluralized leaves. Credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute

It was truly a case of shifting from the animal kingdom to the plant kingdom for the researchers. Plants and animals employ vastly different means of delivering liquids, chemical agents and large molecules.

Yet their vascular systems bear a close likeness to each other. The cells of the plants were deleted and their scaffolding structures were used to open the way to a new science.

The experiments that took place involved a culture of beating human heart cells that was transplanted on top of spinach leaves. These spinach leaves had their plant cells removed beforehand.

The vasculature of the spinach cells than acted in such a manner that the blood of the heart cells flowed through their vessels. Multiple spinach leaves were used to grow heart tissue.

This experiment has several applications in heart patients. Various other decellularized plants could serve as the hosts to a number of tissue engineering technologies. While this branch of science has exciting future implications, a lot more work needs to be done before it is even viable.

By choosing plants as the basis of tissue engineering, the scientists have gotten hold of materials that have been farmed since the past 10,000 years.

Ever since the agricultural revolution began in earnest, human beings have been planting seeds and harvesting crops. These plants and their tissues may now serve as a limitless source of transplants for patients who have various ailments.

This highlights the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to medical problems. The whole impetus for this branch of research began when someone compared the vascular structure of spinach leaves to the arteries, veins and capillaries in the human body.

The initial findings of this study described in a paper "Crossing kingdoms: Using decelluralized plants as perfusable tissue engineering scaffolds" that got published online in advance of the May 2017 issue of the journal Biomaterials.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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