Perfusion decellularization has recently been used to remove genetic material in pig organs, allowing them to be seeded with human stem cells in the hopes of securing a renewable source of organs for transplantation. In a similar (but non-mammalian) vein, researchers from the Myocardial Regeneration Lab at Worcester Polytechnic Institute have performed decellularization processes on spinach leaves and infused them with human heart muscle cells to determine if the remaining cellulose scaffold could support the demanding job of replacing dense heart tissue. The spinach-heart combinations were able to beat for up to three weeks in some of the experiments.
Next steps in this research include more in-depth testing of the compatibility of cellulose with human heart tissue, as well as “stacking” the plant-derived material to determine if layering the decellularized spinach leaves will yield “tissue” strong enough to maintain efficacy over long periods of time. The team, led by Glenn Gaudette, PhD, and Joshua Gershlak, MSc, have already begun testing other abundant plant species for viable veinous networks.