The usual procedure of cellular therapy involves the removal of cells from the tissue, manipulation with them in an artificial environment and the reverse introduction into the body of the patient. Although this method is considered a promising strategy for treating many diseases for several decades (stem cell transplantation takes a special place here), but it is still burdened with a lot of technical problems. For example, the process of obtaining the desired cellular material is not devoid of shortcomings. One way to facilitate the procedure, and hence improve its effectiveness, can be “reprogramming” cells in vivo, that is, directly in the living body.
A team of researchers from the University of Ohio, led by Chandan Sen and James Lee, attempted to circumvent the main pitfalls of cell therapy with a new device.
It is based on a chip the size of a small coin, created using nanotechnology. Within it are DNA or RNA molecules with the necessary information for “reprogramming” cells. The chip is installed on the skin, after which a small electrical discharge, which is fed through the device, opens the channels in the tissue where the genetic material is released.
The procedure takes a few seconds, and the impact itself occurs literally in one touch. After this, the chip is removed, and the skin cells undergo a programmed transformation. The breakthrough technology itself was called tissue nanotransfection (Tissue Nanotransfection TNT). In fact, this is the transformation of tissue through the introduction of genetic information into cells using nanotechnology.
The technique was successfully tested in two groups of mice: one had vascular diseases of the hind limbs (obstruction of the vessels), others suffered a stroke, that is, they had brain cells damaged.
In the press release of the university, the authors of the work say that the efficiency of the method in the experiments reached 98%.
In the first case, using a chip, rodent skin cells were reprogrammed into vascular cells. Already in the first week after the procedure, the researchers observed the process of transformation. By the second week, the first active vessels in the hind limbs appeared in rodents, and seven days later the paws were finally rescued without any additional medication.
Similarly, in a few weeks, the health of the mice after the stroke was restored. Skin cells were transformed into neurons, which were then transplanted into a damaged brain.
“We showed that the skin is a fertile soil on which with the help of our technology it is possible to grow cells of almost any organ that needs restoration,” says Sen.
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According to the authors of the work, the results of which were published in Nature, one of the main advantages of their method is the ability to use the patient’s own cells for treatment.
Accordingly, there will be no rejection of such a “patch”.
Since the procedure does not involve the use of any medication, scientists expect to begin clinical trials of the technique in humans within a year.
It should be noted that the latest achievements in cell reprogramming give people ever more incredible hopes. For example, scientists promise that this technology will slow down aging and allow turning cells into complex biocomputers.