Researchers create a nanochip to reprogram biological tissue

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A team of researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine has developed a silicone nanochip device capable of transforming skin tissue into blood vessels or nerve cells. The device is literally capable of reprogramming the cells of the body according to the needs of the patient. Its designers hope to quickly gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration for use in human clinical research.

In laboratory studies with mouse models, the device converted skin tissue into blood vessels to heal an injured limb with a damaged circulatory system. Other experiments are being carried out to evaluate the potential of this device in the context of different types of therapies, such as the repair of brain damage or the prevention and reversal of nerve damage.

This technology, called “tissue nanotransfection”, is an electromotive gene transfer technology; The device is equipped with an array of hollow silicon needles, which can deliver (via a slight electrical discharge) plasmids – DNA molecules capable of autonomously replicating and participating in horizontal gene transfers – to a specific depth amount default skin, in a fraction of a second.

A less invasive and less risky approach

The technology has been in development for more than five years and can now be manufactured in a fully reproducible way, the researchers say: In a paper published last week in Nature Protocols, Chandan Sen, director of the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering , and his team describe the technical details to build the required hardware, a protocol that can be followed “by any expert in the field,” says Chandan Sen. The chip manufacturing process typically takes 5-6 days.

“This report on how exactly to produce these tissue nanotransfection chips will allow other researchers to participate in this new development of regenerative medicine,” said Sen. Because it actually allows different parts of the body to function differently, this innovative technology could soon help treat various health problems; It would be particularly useful in emergency medicine, in hospitals or in the military. It remains to get the green light from the Food and Drug Administration, which should approve the use of the nanochip within a year, Sen hopes.

This nano-transfection of tissues is a true advance in the field of cell regeneration. For several years, this type of treatment has generally been based on the use of pluripotent stem cells, typical of embryonic tissues, obtained from specialized mature cells. These stem cells have great therapeutic potential, as they can then be induced to become various cells, tissues and (possibly) organs, which will be completely compatible with the patient, thus eliminating the problem of tissue rejection or donor search.

However, this approach requires complicated laboratory procedures and, like any cell manipulation, can present certain risks, including that of giving rise to cancer cells. Therefore, it was essential to develop a simpler and less invasive technique.

A definite interest in civil and military medicine.

The technology proposed by Sen and his team is fully in line with this objective, because here it is a question of freeing itself from any manipulation that takes place in the laboratory: with tissue nano-transfection, the human body becomes its own cellular programmer . The silicon nanochip has a multitude of channels that terminate in a series of microneedles; it is crowned by a rectangular reservoir, which contains specific genes.

The nanochip is applied directly to the damaged tissue and transforms the area into a small cell bioreactor. © Indiana University

Thanks to a focused electrical charge, these genes are introduced to the desired depth in the tissue and modify the cells, transforming the area into a true small “bioreactor”; Cells are reprogrammed into different types or multicellular structures (blood vessels or nerves), without any additional manipulation! Nanotransfection of tissues in vivo takes about thirty minutes, according to its designers. Once produced, cells and tissues can help repair damage locally and even elsewhere in the body, including the brain.

FDA approval would pave the way for clinical research in humans. The potential applications in civilian and military medicine are wide: they include the repair of brain damage resulting from stroke or the reversal of nerve damage caused by diabetes.

Nature Protocols, Y. Xuan et al.

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