Running beneath my skin -
Like the network
Of a tightly-knit
All closely ravelled together –
A well-trod map to my
But too complex to build
Or print. Our greatest
Artificial cartographers cannot reconstruct
The interlacing web of hidden alleyways
And ginnels lurking beneath the surface.
So instead we turn to nature;
Bleaching away the fertile exterior
To make translucent scaffolding
From which we can once more
A bustling Metropolis.
Amid the fading
Water and chlorophyll -
A network of
New life now grows.
This poem was inspired by recent research that has managed to grow heart tissue on spinach leaves.
Current bioengineering techniques, such as 3D printing, find it very difficult to replicate the network of veins and capillaries that are used to deliver blood around the body. However, researchers have found that they can potentially use the vasculature (i.e. the vascular system) of spinach leaves to provide the scaffolding on which to cultivate heart cells.
After the removal of the spinach leaf’s cells using a detergent (via a process called decellularization), the vasculature remained intact and the human heart cells were grown on top. This new system was then successfully tested to make sure that fluids and microbeads similar in size to human blood cells could pass through the network.
This research is still in its early stages, but it has revealed the possibilities of using spinach (and other plants) to grow healthy heart muscle, which can, in turn, be used to help treat people with weakened hearts.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.