GradImpact: Innovation & Entrepreneurship Inspire Creativity: Growing Heart Tissue on Spinach Leaves

    As a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Josh Gershlak never expected thinking outside the box would lead to growing heart tissue on spinach leaves as a potential treatment for heart disease. But when his casual comparison of a spinach leaf to the structure of an aorta led to cutting-edge tissue engineering research, he realized just how limitless scientific research is.


    Gershlak earned an M.S. at Tufts University and then found WPI’s Myocardial Regeneration Lab a good fit to continue his studies. His work in the lab resulted in the decellularization process that launched what’s now known as the Hearts on Spinach research. His unexpected forays into entrepreneurship and innovation coursework gave him new perspectives that led to such creative thinking in the lab.


    Gershlak’s internationally renowned work with Professor Glenn Gaudette explores the possibility of using plant materials as a scaffolding framework for specialized tissue regeneration. “It opens up conversations and minds to try and approach our problems in tissue engineering differently,” he says. “Hopefully it allows us as a field to create functional tissues and organs to positively affect people’s lives.” Gershlak says more work and testing needs to be done, but he’s confident enough in the process and in his colleagues to see Hearts on Spinach move from proof of concept to a reality. To read more about Gershlak’s research, visit the WPI website.


    **Photo Credit: Matthew J. Burgos, WPI Marketing and Communications



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