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Spinach Leaf Heart: How This New Artificial Vascular Network Can Help You [VIDEO]

Update Date: Mar 29, 2017 10:28 AM EDT

Researchers from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachussets have recreated an artificial vascular network in the form of a spinach leaf heart.

This huge development in biotechnology and tissue engineering was accomplished by studying the similarities between vein systems in plants and animals. The replication of the vein system of plants in the artificial vascular network was very important to the delivery of nutrients to individual cells in large tissues and organs, National Geographic reported.

The spinach leaf heart was made from a decellularized spinach leaf. The leaf was first passed through a solution that stripped away plant material.

The modification just leaves behind a leaf structure composed of cellulose. The leaf was then immersed in live human cells. When the cells completely covered all the tiny vessels in the frame, the scientists then pumped fluids through the veins to simulate blood flow.

This advancement solved the problem of creating the intricate blood vessels in the network. The scientists have already been able to recreate the larger tissues and veins through 3D printing but found it very difficult to replicate the technique with the tiny branches in the network, the Independent reported. They were able to replicate this in their study where the heart cells that they grew on the leaf were contracting just like the ones found in a normal heart.

What the researchers aim to do with this study on artificial vascular networks is to create tissue replacements for damaged tissues like those in patients who have suffered a heart attack. They believe that the work on the spinach leaf heart can be replicated in other tissues and organs using other plants like growing bone tissue in wood.

The study is co-authored by Glenn Gaudette, professor of bioengineering and Joshua Gershlak, a graduate student. They first published the results of their study in the journal, Biomaterials.

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