A novel device that reprograms skin cells could represent a breakthrough in repairing injured or ageing tissue, researchers say.
The new technique, called tissue nanotransfection, is based on a tiny device that sits on the surface of the skin of a living body. An intense, focused electric field is then applied across the device, allowing it to deliver genes to the skin cells beneath it – turning them into different types of cells.
That, according to the researchers, offers an exciting development when it comes to repairing damaged tissue, offering the possibility of turning a patient’s own tissue into a “bioreactor” to produce cells to either repair nearby tissues, or for use at another site.
“By using our novel nanochip technology, injured or compromised organs can be replaced,” said Chandan Sen, from the Ohio State University, who co-led the study. “We have shown that skin is a fertile land where we can grow the elements of any organ that is declining.”
The ability for scientists to reprogram cells into other cell types is not new: the discovery scooped John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka the Nobel Prize in 2012 and is currently under research in myriad fields, including Parkinson’s disease.