Scientists have used tissue taken from a spinach leaf to provide a supportive structure for vessels in an engineered human heart, enabling the blood to flow through a network of tiny plant-derived 'veins'.
Creating resilient vascular networks is currently a limiting factor for organ and tissue engineering, says Joshua Gershlak, a graduate student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts who co-authored the study, published in Biomaterials.
The plant cells were removed from the plant (a process called 'decellularization') to create a scaffold that could be used in human tissue.
New material structures are emerging from biomaterial engineering exploring the intersection of plant and human tissues. Some elements of plant tissue, such as cellulose, are 'biocompatible', and can therefore be used to repair damaged human tissue.