Nanotechnology that can turn skin cells into vital organs
August 27 2017 10:46 PM
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A new technology, Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT), that can generate any cell type of interest for treatment within the patient’s own body, has thrown open infinite possibilities in the healthcare segment. Developed by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Ohio State’s College of Engineering, US, this technology may be used to repair injured tissue or restore function of ageing tissue, including organs, blood vessels and nerve cells.
The results of the regenerative medicine study were published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. “By using our novel nanochip technology, injured or compromised organs can be replaced. We have shown that skin is a fertile land where we can grow the elements of any organ that is declining,” said Dr Chandan Sen, director of Ohio State’s Center for Regenerative Medicine & Cell Based Therapies, who co-led the study with L James Lee, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering with Ohio State’s College of Engineering in collaboration with Ohio State’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center.
Researchers studied mice in these experiments. They were able to reprogramme skin cells to become vascular cells in badly injured legs that lacked blood flow. Within one week, active blood vessels appeared in the injured leg, and by the second week, the leg was saved. In lab tests, this technology was also shown to reprogramme skin cells in the live body into nerve cells that were injected into brain-injured mice to help them recover from stroke.
“With this technology, which is successfully working about 98% of the time, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch. This process only takes less than a second and is non-invasive. The chip does not stay with you, and the reprogramming of the cell starts. Our technology keeps the cells in the body under immune surveillance, so immune suppression is not necessary,” said Sen, who also is executive director of Ohio State’s Comprehensive Wound Center.
TNT technology has two major components: First is a nanotechnology-based chip designed to deliver cargo to adult cells in the live body. Second is the design of specific biological cargo for cell conversion. This cargo, when delivered using the chip, converts an adult cell from one type to another, said first author Daniel Gallego-Perez, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and general surgery who also was a postdoctoral researcher in both Sen’s and Lee’s laboratories.
TNT does not require any laboratory-based procedures and may be implemented at the point of care. The procedure is also non-invasive. The cargo is delivered by zapping the device with a small electrical charge that is barely felt by the patient. “The concept is very simple,” Lee said. “As a matter of fact, we were even surprised how it worked so well. In my lab, we have ongoing research trying to understand the mechanism and do even better. So, this is the beginning, more to come.” Given that researchers plan to start clinical trials next year to test this technology in humans, more exciting results could be on the anvil.



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