Spinach is often touted as a “super food” for your health, but recent research has given this idea a whole new meaning. As it turns out, spinach leaves may be able to support the cells of human heart tissue, which could have huge implications for the future of heart disease treatments.
Replacing Plant Cells with Human Tissue
While brainstorming for new ways to solve the growing medical problem that there are not enough organ donors to support everyone who needs a transplant, bioengineers at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts embarked on groundbreaking research.
They first used detergent soaps to strip the plant cells from a spinach leaf, making it translucent, but with its vein system and cellulose still intact. Then, scientists transplanted human heart tissue onto the empty leaf. After five days, those cells began to beat like a human heart.
What This Means for Heart Disease Treatment
Scientists believe that although this preliminary study served as a proof of concept, there may be big-picture implications for the future of heart disease treatment. The idea is that spinach leaves and other plant material could serve as a graft for damaged human tissue, such as following a heart attack or other serious cardiac event.
This could potentially save millions of lives each year, as an estimated 25 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant. And spinach isn’t the only plant material being studied for this purpose. In the past, researchers have used an apple to grow human cartilage, and it may be possible that a piece of broccoli could grow lung tissue in much the same way.