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WPI Scientists Developing Patch For Diseased Hearts Using Spinach Leaves

WORCESTER(CBS) - Biomedical engineers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute are working on a patch for diseased hearts that uses spinach leaves.

When mixed with human stem cells, the veins in spinach could become heart muscle that pumps blood when the original organ is infected or damaged.

"And so we haven't actually put blood in there we put dye in there and we put small particles that represent blood cells and those flow right through the leaves," said biomedical engineering professor Glenn Gaudette.

During the process, the green of the spinach is removed, leaving just the cellulose structure.

Spinach Experiment
Spinach tested as substitute for infected heart tissue, using color dye. (Image from WPI)

Afterwards, the structure is mixed with human, adult stem cells and parsley stems to create tissue that mimics heart muscle with veins and arteries.

Ideally, the tissue would be implanted in humans to restore the hearts ability to pump blood.

Aside from spinach, engineers are exploring the possibility of using other vegetables. Gaudette said more plants could be called into service for treatment.

"We look at bamboo for example for bone replacement and we're starting to look at different structures that have three dimensions," Gaudette said. "Broccoli and cauliflower for example that have a three dimensional structure similar to lungs."

Human testing is years away.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Lana Jones reports

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