Popeye was way ahead of times. He is notorious for his spinach indulgence that he ate to grow a new pair of muscles in a second. While this is not the case in the real world, his veggie choice is not so random after all. Spinach is an Asian plant with huge potential for biomedical engineers. Besides influencing an entire pop culture, the leaf vegetable is now the author of pumping hearts as well.
Pumping Hearts Need a Complex Veins Network that Exists in Spinach as Well
The one thing that caught the attention of the engineers on spinach leaves is its system of veins. The plant has one of the most complex such networks that can be compared to the heart tissue itself. This is one of the nature’s miracles that scientists pursued to explore to the benefit of humankind.
Thus, a team of tissue engineers at the Massachusetts’s Worcester Polytechnic Institute started to experiment on spinach leaves. To test the potential of the veins system they extracted the cells from the plant. The end result was a translucent tissue. Scientists proceeded by filling the empty spaces with cells from a human heart sample. The experiment ended up being successful. The spinach leaf behaved like pumping hearts for a lengthy period of time of three weeks.
The New Experiment Answers a Global Health Issue
The unusual experiment is the product of a session of brainstorming during lunch time between bioengineers Joshua Gershlak and Glenn Gaudette. The goal of this meeting on the spur of the moment was to find a solution to a concerning issue of today’s world, namely deficit of donor organs. The waiting list for organs can reach even a total of 100,000 patients. Out of them, two dozen persons risk dying each year. The cause of their death is a lack of organ transplant.
There are several ways through which the medical, as well as the political worlds, tried to cope with the situation. First of all, scientists turned to 3D printing technology to create synthetic organs from scratch. However, nobody managed to achieve a perfect sample.
On the other hand, France managed to pass a new law. According to it, all citizens became organ donors. Those who do not wish to donate their organs after their death have to sign a document. The legal procedure can be done online. However, not all countries might be willing to adopt this law. The spinach heart is a third solution to the problem, which might turn out to be more effective than the others.
“Adapting abundant plants that farmers have been cultivating for thousands of years for use in tissue engineering could solve a host of problems limiting the field.”
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