Scientists use Popeye’s favorite food to support the blood supply of heart tissue created in the laboratory.

A group of men dress up as Popeye at the Key West carnival.

Despite the increase that year after year the number of organ donations all over the world, with Spain situated at the top of the ranking, sometimes these are still insufficient, especially because of the need to compatibility that makes transplants a success.

For this reason, more and more researchers dedicate their work to laboratory cultivation of both fabrics like complete organs, in order to be able to manufacture them on demand, according to the needs of the recipient.

However advanced these techniques are, however, it is impossible to maintain an organ in the laboratory without a continuous blood supply, so an important part of these projects consists of the search for a vascularization system that irrigates these tissues in the same way that occurs inside the body.

There are several studies in this regard, some of them focused on the cutting-edge techniques of 3d printing, while at the other extreme are those who take advantage of the vascular system of plantsSince animals and plants have little in common, but the few similarities that exist are a perfect asset to exploit in these cases.

Scientists in the super market

Plants have a very well developed vascular system, which allows them distribute nutrients for all its parts.

For this reason, a group of researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, whose results have been published in Biomaterials, recently decided to take advantage of this quality to manufacture blood tissue that could irrigate the human organs synthesized in the laboratory.

It all started in a local market, in which this team, led by Joshua Gershlak, bought huge quantities of spinach, a vegetable that is characterized by having a high concentration of vessels, in the same way as human heart tissue.

Once the process of decelurization, in which a kind of detergent is used to to wash the cells of the plant, leaving the vessels exposed, proceeded to cultivate the result together with cells of the heart muscle, creating an excellent set, because a few days later those cells of the heart, which until now had remained immobile, began to contract in the same way that they would in human tissue.

There is still a lot to investigate

Although the results are very promising, there is still much to investigate, since at the moment it has only been a small rehearsal at the laboratory.

The goal in clinical practice would be to create fragments of heart tissue that could be transplanted to patients whose initial tissue has been damaged by causes such as a heart attack.

However, they are not yet clear how it will behave in vivo, nor if it will create some kind of rejection after being transplanted, so the appropriate steps should continue to be taken to provide answers to these questions.

Other investigated plants

Although spinach seems to be the most useful plants for this specific purpose, this team of researchers has also carried out the decelurization of other leaves, such as those of the parsley and the sweet absinthe, since they consider that there is a plant for each tissue and that knowing its properties can help decide what purpose should be given to each one.

And, after all, plants are an exceptional tool that is very easy to find, which is within reach of the nearest garden. Or a simple supermarket.