Using the plant like scaffolding, scientists have transformed spinach leaves into working human heart tissue. This discovery is expected to one-day aid in tissue regeneration. Plants are one of the best ways of recreating astonishing ways the body can carry blood.
Despite significant advances in the fabrication of bioengineered scaffolds for tissue engineering, delivery of nutrients in complex engineered human tissues remains a challenge.
Scientists struggle to make large-scale human tissue – while they have had some success in creating small lab samples, it is much more difficult to make them at the size of tissues, bones or whole organs. However, that’s what will be needed if the tissue proves useful in the treatment of disease or injury.
Now scientists have come closer to solving perhaps the hardest of those challenges and creating a vascular system the can deliver blood into the new tissues.
Until now, it has been hard to recreate the tiny, branching network of blood vessels using techniques like 3D printing. Now researchers have solved it by turning to plants, and then turning plants into tissue.
While plants and animals have every different way of transporting fluids and chemicals, the structure of the plants that do so is very similar. Although the development of decellularized plants for scaffolding open up the potential for a new branch of science that investigates the mimicry between plant and animal.
To create the heart, the team stripped the plant cells from spinach leaves. They sent fluid and micro-beads similar to human blood cells through the spinach’s vessels and seeded human cells that are used to line blood vessels into it.
Eventually, the same technique could be used to grow layers of healthy heart muscles and treat cardiac arrest patient’s, they suggest, It’s particularly useful because such plants can be found easily and are everywhere.
Left: A decellularized spinach leaf is pictured before dye is added to test its ability to filter blood through tissue.Right: Picture of a spinach leaf after it successfully demonstrated red dye could be pumped through its veins, simulating the blood, oxygen, and nutrients human heart tissue needs to grow.
Acknowledgments & References
Joshua Gershlak, a graduate student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. and Glenn Gaudette also of WPI.