For years, scientists have been trying to recreate healthy human tissue in various ways. While some methods may have worked, they only do so in a small scale, and struggle to function properly when recreated on a larger scale, which would be needed if they want to use the tissue to treat injuries. The most recent attempts have involved trying to 3D print to recreate the branching networks of veins and arteries in human tissue, which was sadly unsuccessful. However, there is a potentially new and successful method of re-creating these intricate networks, and it involves using spinach leaves.
Plants and animals have very different ways of transporting necessary chemicals into their cells. However, the networks which they use to transport those chemicals are very similar. This is where the researchers from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute come in, and have created an artificial heart out of spinach leaves.
Source: Youtube, WPI
They did this by first stripping the plant cells from the spinach leaves, and then letting fluids and microbeads similar to human blood cells flow through the spinach leaves’ blood vessels, and then “seeding” the human cells into the leaf to line the blood vessels, to replicate the way a human blood vessel would look.
The researchers have suggested that this technology could be used to replace the heart muscles of those who have suffered a heart attack.
Source: National Geographic
The research team has stated that “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.” “We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising.” said Glen Gaudette, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “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.”
Their findings have yet to be published in the journal Biomaterials in May of 2017.