Spinach turned into human heart - how have they done it?
Ever noticed how spinach has a series of ‘veins’ that run throughout the leaf? It’s a similar network to the human heart.
A research team at Massachusetts’ Worcester Polytechnic Institute first removed all the cells from a bunch of spinach leaves. They did this with a simple detergent solution. As a result, the spinach went translucent. They then place human heart tissue into the gaps left by the cells. This is known as ‘seeding’.
Remarkably, the heart cells were able to beat for 3 weeks in the spinach leaves. They watched as red dye, resembling blood, was pumped through the spinach veins.
"It was definitely a double take," said bioengineer Joshua Gershlak. "All of a sudden you see cells moving."
Why make a human heart from spinach?
Published in the journal Biomaterials, the study was thought up as a creative solution to speed up organ donation times. As one news article reported, “Of the more than 100,000 people on the donor list, nearly two dozen people die each day while waiting for an organ transplant.”
It was hoped that 3-D printing might help build human organs suitable for transplants. But so far, the results haven’t been good enough.
Co-researcher Glenn Gaudette said, “One of the big problems in engineering heart muscle is getting blood flow to all of the cells. Heart muscle is pretty thick."