Have A Heart – As Popeye Says “Bring Out Your Spinach Leaves”
It might have been April 1st yesterday, but this is no joke. Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute have been hard at work turning the not so humble spinach leaf into a viable beating heart, able to culture human cell based tissue. With hundreds of people dying daily whilst awaiting an organ transplant, a novel approach to bio engineering is well underway. Scientists have created a functioning vasculature by stripping away the original spinach cells and replacing them with human cells. This overcomes a fundamental problem that biological engineers had failed to crack to date, if we are to accelerate the creation of artificial tissue and organs. Plants transport their vitally sourced water and nutrients, rather than blood, in a similar design need, to those of animals. Creating a scaffold is a good place to start to mimic blood flow while testing organ viability. An organ, such as a heart, will fail if it is not serviced regularly by oxygen and nutrients. So kids, get out in that park AND eat your greens!
This lab’ based process starts with a, pumped through the veins, detergent based leaf bleach, to strip away plant cells. After a few days the leaf is ready to receive human blood vessel cells so that the veins are compatible with human biology. The leaf is then covered in human heart cells which attach themselves to the leaf skeleton. Mock blood is then pumped through the system which expands and contracts just like a beating human heart. The target: to beat 100,000 times per day just as the human heart does, on an average day. Maybe Dr Popeye did know something after all? and him with his exhortation to “eat more spinach” and build a great heart.