Scientists from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute have turned a spinach leaf into working human heart tissue, and this could revolutionize the treatment of damaged organs.
Tissue engineering (also called regenerative medicine) attempts to create functional human tissue from cells in a laboratory. Its goal is to replace tissues and organs that fail due to disease, genetic errors, or other reasons. Scientists have already created large-scale human tissue in a lab, but without a vascular network that carries blood, a big part of that tissue dies.
To fight that, the researchers took a spinach leaf and removed its plant cells, leaving a frame made of cellulose. “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 authors write in their paper.
They bathed the remaining frame in live human cells and they grew on the leaf’s tiny veins. The team then sent fluids and microbeads through the “tiny heart” and sure enough – it was flowing.
Eventually, the same technique could be used to grow layers of healthy heart muscles and treat heart attack patients. “We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising,” study co-author Glenn Gaudette says in a press statement. “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.”
More info: sciencedirect.com