Technology meets medicine – healing tissues with just one touch

Researchers at Ohio State University Wexner Medical centre have made a recent breakthrough in regenerative medicine.  They have developed a technique to regenerate cells using a nanochip.

So far this new technology has only been tested on mice and pigs but what they have discovered is incredible.

The Technology

The technique, which has been named “Tissue Nanotransfection”, or TNT, is non-invasive and the device used is as small as a penny.  The results of the study were published in Nature Nanotechnology, and the technology is so advanced so that it is working 98% of the time in their trials.

The small device is placed on top of the skin and an electric current is passed through it.  The current passing through causes the epithelial (skin) cells to be reprogrammed into other cell types. These new cell types can then be used elsewhere in the human body.

Healing Tissues

In their experiments, scientists were able to heal injured legs of mice. The device successfully reprogrammed skin cells to become vascular cells and regenerate blood vessels.  Within a week, blood flow was restored to the mouse’s leg, and by the end of two weeks, the leg was nearly completely healed.

Nerve cells, or neurons, were also generated using the same technique. These were then used to help mice with brain injuries recover from strokes.

Although other techniques already exist to change one cell type into another, these usually involve an extra step, using pluripotent stem cells.  With TNT, the nanochip technology carries the biological cargo (targeted genes) directly to the skin cells. This allows the cells to change directly from one type into another without the need for pluripotent stem cells.

Hope for the Future

Since this procedure is non-invasive and literally takes seconds to administer, the hope is that it will be used in primary health care settings such as GP surgeries. The theory is that this new technology could be used to help with diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s by reprogramming damaged brain cells.  Another possibility is that it may be used to heal injured organs.

Human clinical trials are hoped to start next year.

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Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing.  All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of the sample surveyed. An online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice. Article edited for publication by Dr Hannah Arnstein

Images courtesy of pixabay

Sources and Further Reading

About hannaharnstein (13 Articles)
I am a psychiatry trainee working in the North East, but currently on maternity leave. Outside of medicine, other than writing I enjoy all things geek, baking and reading.

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