Myocardial Regeneration Lab, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

The experiment began when Massachusetts’s Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) bioengineers Glenn Gaudette and Joshua Gershlak, began to think about the possible solutions to one of the world’s most critical medical problem: the deficiency of organ donors around the globe. The engineers considered using plants (and their extracts) as a possible means of making artificial organs. One such human-plant fusion experiment was performed when scientists converted heart-healthy spinach into a human heart tissue.

According to a report in the journal, Biomaterial, tissue engineers at the Institute stripped green spinach leaves of the cells that made it turn translucent. When gaps were filled with human heart tissues these heart cells, in the cluster, beat for the three weeks in this very unusual environment.

Mr. Gershlak explained that the engineers first removed the spinach cells using an unlikely household product: soap. The byproduct of this process was cellulose, which is compatible with the mammal tissue and was also intact with the leaf veins. The cellulose was then seeded with human cardiac muscle cells and the muscle cells began beating after only five days.

Why was spinach was chosen for such an experiment? Well, it was due to the unique physical properties of this plant, which not just help in pumping the human heart but also excite various biomedical scholars with regards to its physical properties. Spinach can grow the network of veins through its threads that are similar to the blood vessels in the human heart.

The reason why scientist turned to plants instead of chemically growing new organs is due to the fact that they wanted to extract things that have already evolved in nature. Using spinach was the consequence of one such consideration.

This was not the first time that researchers used plants for such a critical human experiments. Recently, a team of scientists stripped plant cells from an apple, carved a slice to look like a human ear and filled its extracellular matrix with cervical tissue.

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