Worcester Polytechnic Institute Grew Heart Tissue on a Spinach Leaf

BOSTON MAGAZINE |Hallie Smith
Photo:A DECELLULARIZED SPINACH LEAF/PHOTO PROVIDED BY WPI
A team of researchers used the veins of a spinach leaf to grow heart tissue.
Spinach isn’t merely a heart-healthy veggie. A team of researchers just demonstrated that the green may even be able to grow a heart.

In a paper published Wednesday, researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Arkansas State University-Jonesboro detail how they used spinach leaves to grow heart tissue.

Believe it or not, spinach leaves have a vascular system similar to humans’. So to start, researchers pushed a detergent solution through the spinach’s veins, stripping it of its plant cells and leaving behind the structure that keeps those cells in place. They also filled the spinach veins with human cells that line blood vessels.

When human cardiomyocytes—heart muscle cells derived from pluripotent stem cells—were implanted onto the spinach leaf, capillaries carried all the necessary blood and nutrients to the cardiomyocytes. After five days on the leaf, the cardiomyocytes had received enough nutrients and grown strong enough to contract like a muscle, and continued to contract for 21 days. Continue reading
 
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