Scientists at WPI have recently discovered a way to turn an ordinary spinach leaf into a beating heart. The idea to use a spinach leaf came from a common problem that tissue engineers face when synthesizing tissue. They explained that one of the main limiting factors in creating tissues has to do with a lack of a vascular network. Similar to animals, leaves have their own vascular networks that consist of veins. The researchers have replicated the way blood moves through the heart using the delicate network of a spinach leaf.
The process of turning a spinach leaf into a functional heart involves the removal of plant cells from the leaf. This leaves behind a frame of cellulose, which is a material used often in tissue engineering for artificial cartilage and wound healing. The cellulose was soaked in human cells which grew on the frame. After the cellulose has been turned into a mini heart, the researchers injected fluid and microbeads through its veins to show that blood cells can flow through the veins. The goal of this research is to find ways to replace damaged tissues in humans. The scientists hope to experiment with other plant materials such as wood to repair bones. Overall this research is very promising for the future of tissue replacement procedures.
Posted by Sierra Tyrol (C)