Wednesday, March 29, 2017 8:47 am
U.S. scientists have successfully cultivated human heart tissue on spinach leaves, and managed to make it beat for up to three weeks in the unusual environment, the Washington Post reported.
Bioengineers Glenn Gaudette and Joshua Gershlak at Massachusetts Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) led the research and their findings were valuable to a deadly medical problem — the lack of donor organs.
Scientists have long been trying different methods, such as 3-D printing and automatic electronic technology, to create artificial organs.
However, none of those methods were successful.
The Washington Post quoted Gaudette as saying “one of the big problems in engineering heart muscle is getting blood to flow to all of the cells.”
He explained that instead of creating minuscule blood vessels, the researchers turned to material that evolved in nature — spinach leaves — because the vessels were similar to the blood vessels in human heart.
Gershlak said “we use detergent — soaps — which strips away the cellular material of tissues.
“The soap washes deflated spinach cells away and cellulose, which is compatible to mammal cells and intact leaf veins are were left behind, therefore, the frame of the leaves is reserved, waiting to be filled by mammal cells.
“The scientists seeded cardiac muscle cells into the vacancy left by spinach cells and after five days, the muscle cells started to beat.
“However, there were differences between an entire slab of quivering heart tissue and the heart-spinach hybrids.
“First researchers have to make sure the hybrids won’t be rejected by human body.
“They also need to make their hybrids thicker and stronger like real human heart walls.
“If we stack decellularised leaves, can we create a large thickness more along the thickness of a human heart wall?”, Gaudette wondered.
In addition to spinach, the WPI scientists successfully removed cells of other plant species like parsley, peanut hairy roots and a kind of wormwood.
They imagined that the structure of a piece of broccoli can function as foundation for lung tissue.