Researchers Make Working Heart Tissue Using… Spinach?
Yep, you read that right. Researchers from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute have managed to make working heart tissue from spinach.
The team at the WPI’s goal was to try and recreate working human organ tissue, right down to the fragile vascular networks of blood vessels it needs to survive. Scientists previously attempted to 3D print these intricate vascular networks, but were unsuccessful. This breakthrough in modern science could mean that the delicate vascular systems found in plants could be the key.
In order to create the working heart tissue, scientists at WPI needed to reveal the leaf’s cellulose frame by stripping away the plant cells. They then ‘seeded’ the plant’s frame with human cells, which caused tissue growth on the frame. Finally, the scientists were able to pump microbeads and fluids through the veins to show the functioning concept.
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Repairing Damage and Creating Replacements
Other scientists have previously been able to create small-scale artificial samples of working human tissue, but those samples required the integration of existing blood vessels. The large-scale creation of working tissue integrated with these vascular vessels which are critical to tissue health had proven impossible.
Because this technique using spinach has proven to be possible in small-scale tests, it could help people grow layers of healthier and stronger heart tissue, the team at WPI hopes that it could one day be used to help treat heart attack patients, or those whose hearts have difficulty contracting.
The researchers have also been experimenting with different kinds of vegetation including parsley, peanut hairy roots, and sweet wormwood as they believe this same technique could be used to create other types of working tissue. For example, they hope that one day, wood cellulose frames could help to repair human bones.
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Speaking to The Telegraph, Glenn Gaudette, a professor of biomedical engineering at WPI said “We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising, 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.”
This is an exciting new venture in the world of modern medicine and who would have guessed that Pop-Eye’s favorite muscle food could be used as working heart tissue?
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