A team from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre are working on a penny-size chip that uses Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT) to regrow skin cells or organs by injecting DNA into cells.
Lead investigator Dr Chandan Sen, who is also the director of the university's Center for Regenerative Medicine and Cell-Based Therapies, said: "It takes just a fraction of a second. You simply touch the chip to the wounded area, then remove it. At that point, the cell reprogramming begins ... We reprogrammed their skin cells to become vascular cells. Within a week we began noticing the transformation. What's even more exciting is that it not only works on the skin, but on any type of tissue."
Dr James Lee, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State, added: "It extends the concept known as gene therapy, and it has been around for quite some time. The difference with our technology is how we deliver the DNA into the cells."
Tests were carried on mice with badly damaged limbs and the findings were published in the Nature Nanotechnology journal.
The abstract for the paper reads: "Although cellular therapies represent a promising strategy for a number of conditions, current approaches face major translational hurdles, including limited cell sources and the need for cumbersome pre-processing steps. In vivo cell reprogramming has the potential to enable more-effective cell-based therapies by using readily available cell sources (for example, fibroblasts) and circumventing the need for ex vivo pre-processing.
"Existing reprogramming methodologies, however, are fraught with caveats, including a heavy reliance on viral transfection. Moreover, capsid size constraints and/or the stochastic nature of status quo approaches (viral and non-viral) pose additional limitations, thus highlighting the need for safer and more deterministic in vivo reprogramming methods.
"Here, we report a novel yet simple-to-implement non-viral approach to topically reprogram tissues through a nanochannelled device validated with well-established and newly developed reprogramming models of induced neurons and endothelium, respectively. We demonstrate the simplicity and utility of this approach by rescuing necrotizing tissues and whole limbs using two murine models of injury-induced ischaemia."