Tissue nanotransfection pad for patient’s skin triggers organ, tissue, cell regrowth

Scientists have developed a new device which uses nanochips to generate any cell within a patient’s own body.

Damaged organs could be “regrown” with a single touch, thanks to a “breakthrough” in technology, say researchers.

The penny-sized pad is placed on an area of skin and the device is zapped with a small electrical charge that is barely felt by the patient.

This injects a new genetic code into the area and the skin cells are “reprogrammed” to become any other cell type needed for treatment.

The process is non-invasive and takes less than a second, say researchers at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre.

The technology, called tissue nanotransfection, could be used to heal wounds or restore the function of ageing tissue, including organs, blood vessels and nerve cells.

“With this technology, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch,” said Dr Chandan Sen, director of the university’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Cell Based Therapies.

“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.”

The team has carried out a series of lab tests, applying the chip to the badly injured legs of mice.

Skin cells were reprogrammed to become vascular cells and within two weeks, the legs had been saved.

The device was also used to generate nerve cells, which were injected into brain-injured mice to help them recover from stroke.

James Lee, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering with Ohio State’s College of Engineering, who co-led the study with Dr Sen, added: “The concept is very simple. 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. Researchers plan to start clinical trials next year to test this technology in humans.”

Last year, IBM showed off a ‘lab-on-a-chip’ that is designed to separate biological particles at the nanoscale to enable physicians to detect diseases such as cancer before symptoms appear. 

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