Blood from Plants

3:00 - 3:50 PM
Plants, like humans, possess hemoglobin genes but do not produce blood; at least, to the best of our knowledge. This talk and demo will introduce a remarkable plant with vital blood components including hemoglobin over seven times the level in humans. Demos will be presented of the plant along with research results on blood plant extracts developing healthcare applications in treating blood disorders, as well as natural nutritious food products with major potential to reduce dependence on meat, helping mitigate the causes of climate change.


In the 2018 blockbuster movie Black Panther, extracts from a wonder heart-shaped plant ostensibly power the blood flow in the African King of Wakanda, giving him tremendous abilities for healing — Wakanda forever! The movie is, of course, a genre of science fiction that combines futurism and supernatural powers. Fiction aside, scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have discovered a plant in Africa, that can truly power human blood. Working in collaboration with African partners and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, BWH researchers identified a plant from the genus Justicia (Family Acanthaceae) whose isolated extract has remarkable levels of blood components, including vital blood plasma elements and hemoglobin levels over 7 times more than those found in humans. In this talk, the public will be introduced to this new discovery and research results developing applications in treating blood disorders, and in the food industry. There will be demos of water extraction of blood from this plant, new products developed from this extract, and introduction to a future where hemoglobin products from this plant could replace the need for cow meat, by choice (Vegans and Vegetarians) or necessity to help mitigate the effects of global warming.


Wilfred Ngwa, PhD

Assistant Professor  
Division of Medical Physics, Radiation Oncology
Brigham and Women’s Hospital


Wilfred Ngwa, PhD

Assistant Professor, Division of Medical Physics, Radiation Oncology

Wilfred (Wil) Ngwa is the Director of the Global Health Catalyst at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at Harvard Medical School. Wil earned a Bachelors degree at the University of Buea Cameroon, graduate degrees at the University of Leipzig Germany, and subsequently postdoctoral  and clinical training at Harvard Medical School. He currently leads a global health program with research developing new technologies and approaches to boost cancer cure rates and reduce global health disparities. This work has been recognized with a number of awards, including the prestigious BWH BRIght Future’s Prize in 2015 (for the project “Tiny Drones to Target Cancer”). Other awards include two “Best in Physics” Awards by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) and Canadian Organization of Medical Physicists, Research Excellence Awards from the National Cancer Institute and innovation awards from Partners Healthcare, among other awards.