Scientists, including one of Indian origin, have developed a device that can convert skin cells in the body into any other cell type with just a touch, an advance that may help repair injured tissues, blood vessels and nerves. Researchers from the Ohio State University in the US developed a new technology called Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT) and tested it on mice and pigs. They were able to reprogramme skin cells to become vascular cells in badly injured legs that lacked blood flow.
Within a week, active blood vessels appeared in the injured leg, and by the second week, the leg was saved. In lab tests, the technology was able to reprogramme skin cells in the live body into nerve cells that were injected into brain-injured mice to help them recover from stroke.
“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 Chandan Sen, director of Ohio State’s Center for Regenerative Medicine and Cell Based Therapies. “This is difficult to imagine, but it is achievable, successfully working about 98 per cent of the time. With this technology, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch,” said Sen.
“This process only takes less than a second and is non-invasive, and then you’re off. The chip does not stay with you, and the reprogramming of the cell starts,” he said. TNT technology has two major components: a nanotechnology-based chip designed to deliver cargo to adult cells in the live body; and 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 Daniel Gallego-Perez, an assistant professor at Ohio State. 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 research was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.