BBC Earth (Asia) - - Update -

Re­searchers at the Ohio State Univer­sity have de­signed a tiny de­vice that ge­net­i­cally re­pro­grammes skin cells. It’s hoped it could be used to re­pair in­jured tis­sue, in­clud­ing or­gans, blood ves­sels and nerve cells.

Dubbed ‘tis­sue nan­otrans­fec­tion’ (TNT), the new tech­nique uses a coin-sized de­vice that is placed on the pa­tient’s skin. The de­vice is then zapped with a small elec­tric charge, trig­ger­ing it to de­liver a pack­age of specially en­gi­neered genes to the tar­get skin cells, trans­form­ing them into dif­fer­ent types of cells en­tirely. “With this tech­nol­ogy, we can con­vert skin cells into el­e­ments of any or­gan with just one touch,” said re­searcher Dr Chan­dan Sen. “This process takes less than a sec­ond and is com­pletely non-in­va­sive, and then you’re off. 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.”

In one ex­per­i­ment, the team suc­cess­fully re­pro­grammed skin cells to re­place blood ves­sels in a mouse with a badly in­jured leg. Just one week after treat­ment, ac­tive blood ves­sels be­gan to grow in the mouse’s dam­aged leg, and by the sec­ond week its limb was saved. In an­other ex­per­i­ment, the chip was used to cre­ate nerve cells that were then in­jected into mice to help them re­cover from brain in­juries caused by stroke. Clin­i­cal tri­als in hu­mans will start later this year.

This tiny de­vice can turn skin cells into the build­ingblocks of vi­tal or­gans

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