This nanochip can heal organs simply by touching them

From the Charlie Gard case to this horrific seabug wreaking havoc in Australia, the medical community’s had a tough time lately. So the news that researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre and Ohio State’s College of Engineering have developed a revolutionary new organ-healing microtechnology comes as a welcome change.

This nanochip can heal organs simply by touching them

The technology, known as Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT), can generate any cell type for internal treatment in the patient’s body. Researchers tested mice and pigs, finding they could reprogram the skin cells to become vascular cells in injured legs that lacked blood flow. By the study’s first week, the active blood vessels appeared in the injured leg; by the second week, the leg was saved.

Dr. Chandan Sen, director of Ohio State’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Cell Based Therapies said of the development: “This is difficult to imagine, but it is achievable, successfully working about 98% of the time. With this technology, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch. 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. Our technology keeps the cells in the body under immune surveillance, so immune suppression is not necessary.”

The technology itself comprises two relatively simple components: a nanotechnology-based chip designed to deliver “biological cargo” to adult cells in the (live) body; and the design of aforementioned “biological cargo” to kickstart the cell conversion. The cargo has the capacity to convert an adult cell from one type to another, so could be used to repair injured tissue and, in turn, restore organ function.

Despite its explosive connotations, TNT isn’t a particularly invasive process: it can be administered at the point of care and doesn’t require lab-based procedures. Clinical trials to test the technology in humans are due to start next year.

Image: Kai Schreiber, used under Creative Commons

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