There's a joke to be made about spinach being heart-healthy, but scientists at Worcester Polytechnic Institute are building human heart tissue on spinach leaves, and that's no joke.
WPI grad student Joshua Gershlak got the idea while looking at a spinach leaf. “When I looked at the spinach leaf, its stem reminded me of an aorta,” he said in a statement, “I thought, let’s perfuse right through the stem.”
Gershlak and the WPI team of Pamela Weathers, Ph.D., professor of biology and biotechnology; Marsha Rolle, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering; Glenn Gaudette, professor of biomedical engineering; Tanja Dominko, associate professor of biology and biotechnology took that observation and got to work.
The basic premise here is that once you strip spinach leaves of their plant cells, you're left with a translucent framework of cellulose. They then use those frames of cellulose to build layers of healthy heart muscles which are them used to treat heart patients.
“We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising,” Gaudette said. “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.”
In other words, they have more work to do, so don't try and build yourself a new heart in the garden this summer.
You can read more about their findings at the WPI site.