No one can deny that plants and animals are pretty different from each other. But they have similarities too. Just think about it. We share 60% of our genes with bananas after all. And scientists have now found a way to take advantage of this to construct new human organs using plant cells.
A team of researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute has managed to create human heart tissue from spinach cells. First, the researchers strip the spinach of its cells to only leave cellulose, a plant compound that holds a cell together. Next, live human heart cells are placed on the stripped spinach and human blood cells are flowed into the the leaves’ veins. Putting these leaves in an incubated environment, it then takes just five days to form a functional piece of human heart tissue.
Why is it Special?
Other ways of creating artificial tissue, like 3D printing them, have not worked so far. And so, although this process is still in an experimental stage, it’s great news that tests until now show it works.
According to the researchers, if everything goes well in future tests, spinach leaves could soon be used to grow layers of healthy heart tissue. Among many possible uses, it could be used to treat people who’ve had a heart attack- a condition responsible for around 1 in 4 deaths in the US per year.
The researchers don’t want to stop at turning spinach hearts into an acceptable medical treatment. Already, they’ve managed to make human tissue from parsley, peanuts, and sweet wormwood using the same method. And what’s more, they’re now researching how the method can be used for regenerating bone tissue too.
To conclude, although the science behind generating human cells from plants is still new, it has the potential to make life saving operations cheaper and easier to perform. And with research producing promising results, we could start seeing spinach hearts sooner than we think.