Here's How Spinach (Yes, Spinach!) Might Solve Heart Donor Shortages

by Brandon Topp

Ever since Popeye started gulping spinach by the can, we've known that that spinach is good for you. It increases muscle efficiency (as Popeye knows well!), is a good source of vitamins A, B2, C, and K, plus contains magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, calcium and potassium. But a recent, totally mind-blowing report shows that this leafy green superfood can do more than just help your muscles, it has the potential to become your muscles. At least, one particular muscle: your heart.

Two Scientists Created Beating Human Heart Tissue With Spinach (Really!). 


Scientists from Worcester Polytechnic Institute successfully repurposed spinach leaves into beating human heart tissue according to a slew of reports this week. The two bioengineers who spearheaded the experiment—Glenn Gaudette and Joshua Gershlak—were wondering how to deal with the world’s lack of organ donors when they noticed (over lunch) how the vein structure of spinach is similar to that of a human heart. 

Research and discoveries like this provide a platform of education and resources that we can all use to live longer, healthier lives. For inspiring stories following individuals rewriting their lives into healthier, lengthier tales, check out Z Living’s eye-opening show Change The Day You Die. Find out when to watch the show and where to tune in.

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This Research Could Save Hundreds Awaiting An Organ Transplant.


According to The Washington Post and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “Of the more than 100,000 people on the donor list, nearly two dozen people die each day waiting for an organ transplant. Attempts to create artificial organs through 3D printing and stem cell research have been the most talked-about attempts by scientists to help curb the shortage of available organs. 

None of these recreations of tiny blood vessels weaving through the densely constructed human heart have been too successful. This latest breakthrough from W.P.I is the first rebuild that takes its design and structure straight from nature. 

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Here's How They Did It:


Once they got the idea, Gaudette and Gershlak removed the existing cells from spinach leaves purchased at the grocery store. They simply did this with detergent and water, and it stripped the spinach of all its nutrients and color. All that remained was cellulose and the plant’s protein matrix and structure — its veins. 

What happened next sounds straight outta Veggie Tales...but it's true.

The scientists seeded the veins with cardiac muscle cells, and then left them there. After five days, the cells started beating, proving that the spinach veins provide an environment that supports basic heart function.

What’s Next? 


After the success of the beating spinach leaves, now it’s time for the pioneers to look at how to apply it to those in need of organs. The Washington Post reports, “Gaudette said the study could be the foundation for stitching veins of spinach leaves to human blood vessels. “Long term, we’re definitely envisioning implanting a graft in damaged heart tissue,” he said.”

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