Both parents and Popeye have been telling children that spinach is good for their muscles, and no muscle is more important than the heart.
Now scientists have discovered that spinach is good for the heart, not only because spinach provides iron and other nutrients, but also because spinach leaves can be used to replicate human heart cells.
That's what researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute discovered after transforming a spinach leaf into an artificial beating human heart:
The spinach leaf was used to solve a problem faced by biological engineers when creating artificial tissues and organs. Methods such as 3D printing that generally make good copies do not have the ability to recreate the complicated vascular systems that are needed to ensure the success of any bioengineered tissue. If oxygen and nutrients cannot be transported to the cells, then that organ will fail and die.Obviously, much more research needs to be conducted before doctors can start implementing this process as a way to repair human heart tissue, but it's still a very optimistic first step nevertheless.
While plants use their vasculature to transport water and nutrients rather than blood, the access to the cells that it provides is similar in design to animals. Combined with the fact that cellulose is compatible with human biology, the researchers saw a new opportunity to utilize plants in bioengineering.
The process was relatively simple. The spinach leaf was first bleached via a detergent pumped through the veins, stripping away the plant cells. This took several days to complete, after which human blood vessel cells were implanted to make the veins to be compatible with human biology. The process was finished off by covering the leaf in human heart cells, which attached themselves to the skeleton. Eventually, the cells started beating like an actual heart, allowing mock blood to flow through the system. Similar experiments were conducted with peanut plants and parsley.
Of course, if you think turning spinach leaves into heart tissue is crazy, try turning broccoli or cauliflower into lung tissue.
Just imagine a world filled with human-plant hybrids. Let's just hope than none of them turn out to be the next Poison Ivy! (As hot as that would be!)