Worcester Polytechnic Institute
We’ve seen rat hearts stripped of their muscle with bleach and recellularized with stem cells. This has direct relation to our capability to build a new heart from your own cells.
ou from your own cells. But how can we make sure the new tissue has an adequate or even abundant supply of blood, nutrients and oxygen during the development phase and beyond? Spinach leaves, of course! Remember, some of the most interesting advances in science and medicine happen at the edges and intersections of multiple fields of study.
“Can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean
Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) were able to culture beating human heart cells on such decelluralized leaves. – Credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Researchers face a fundamental challenge as they seek to scale up human tissue regeneration from small lab samples to full-size tissues, bones, even whole organs to implant in people to treat disease or traumatic injuries: how to establish a vascular system that delivers blood deep into the developing tissue. “Plants and animals exploit fundamentally different approaches to transporting fluids, chemicals and macromolecules, yet there are surprising similarities in their vascular network structures,” the authors wrote. “The development of decellularized plants for scaffolding opens up the potential for a new branch of science that investigates the mimicry between plant and animal.”
In a series of experiments, the team cultured beating human heart cells on spinach leaves that were stripped of plant cells. They flowed fluids and microbeads similar in size to human blood cells through the spinach vasculature, and they seeded the spinach veins with human cells that line blood vessels. These proof-of-concept studies open the door to using multiple spinach leaves to grow layers of healthy heart muscle to treat heart attack patients.
The collaborative team also includes human stem cell and plant biology researchers at Wisconsin and Arkansas. “This project speaks to the importance of interdisciplinary research,” Gaudette said. “When you have people with different expertise coming at a problem from different perspectives, novel solutions can emerge.” In addition to spinach leaves, the team successfully removed cells from parsley, Artemesia annua (sweet wormwood), and peanut hairy roots.
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