Device repurposes cells, healing organs without additional treatment

Described in the recent issue of Nature Nanotechnology, a technology called Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT) technology has shown an ability to transform skin cells into other types of cells with 98 percent accuracy, with the potential ability to save failing organs.

A chip device is loaded with specific genetic codes or proteins and releases an electrical current when placed against the skin where it injects DNA or RNA and reprograms the cells. In lab tests on vascular veins in mice, the chip could show a change in cells at one week. By the second week, active blood vessels began to form. The legs in the mice were treated by the third week.

“It takes just a fraction of a second. You simply touch the chip to the wounded area, then remove it,” said Chandan Sen, PhD, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine and Cell-Based Therapies at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “At that point, the cell reprogramming begins.”

In clinical tests done on the device, researchers noted it could achieve 98 percent efficiency. Researchers hope that the chip can be used on other cells than just skin cells. In tests done on the brain cells of mice, researchers were able to harvest and inject the cells back into the brain after having a stroke. In a few weeks, the brain could regain function and was healed.

“It extends the concept known as gene therapy, and it has been around for quite some time,” said study collaborator James Lee, PhD, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State. “The difference with our technology is how we deliver the DNA into the cells.”