So spinach is not just the iron-rich leafy-green vegetable that every parent tries to feed their children and fail. It can also be used to carry blood and aid in tissue generation.

A new study, published this month by the journal Biomaterials, documented the work of a team of scientists who were able to turn spinach leaves into a “mini-heart”, which might be the key to new frontiers in tissue engineering.

A report in National Geographic explained why the finding was significant: “Scientists have already created large-scale human tissue in a lab using methods like 3D printing, but it’s been much harder to grow the small, delicate blood vessels that are vital to tissue health.”

“The main limiting factor for tissue engineering…is the lack of a vascular network,” says study co-author Joshua Gershlak, a graduate student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, USA, in the video above. “Without that vascular network, you get a lot of tissue death.”

The researchers also explain their methodology – fusing spinach leaves with a detergent which removed all cellular material. Human cells were then introduced into the cellular structure left behind, to simulate cardiac tissue.

The goal of the scientists is to replace damaged tissue in patients who have suffered heart attacks.