Researchers at Ohio State University have taken the first step in creating a medical chip that could ultimately heal almost any injury or disease.
The development of a small, dime-sized silicone device—known as Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT)—uses nanotechnology to actively reprogram a person’s cellular makeup. By simply placing the chip on a wound, the device sends an electrical pulse designed to convert living cells into whatever necessary cells the body requires. The pulse “opens a small window into the cell,” allowing the chip to transmit an entirely new genetic code. Moreover, the entire process takes less than one second.
The findings, published last week in the journal Nature, discuss lab tests during which mice with injured legs were completely repaired with a single touch of TNT: by turning skin cells into vascular cells, within the timespan of three weeks. This breakthrough technology does not only work on skin cells, but can also restore any type of tissue. The device was also able to restore brain function in a mouse who had suffered a stroke, by growing brain cells on its skin.
The future potential and implications of such a device are clearly limitless, but some of the researchers’ ideas include reprogramming the brain cells of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or stroke patients, regenerating injured limbs, or helping victims of car crashes or combat at the scene of the accident.
Director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine and Cell-Based Therapies, Chandan Sen, says, “This technology does not require a laboratory or hospital, and can actually be excited in the field. It’s less than 100 grams to carry and will have a long shelf life.” Additionally, while current cell methods of cell therapy carry high risks—like introducing a virus—TNT treatment has no known side effects, and requires almost no time to carry out.
While the technology is currently waiting for approval from the FDA, Sen states that the device is expected to enter human trials within the next year, and he is currently in communications with Walter Reed National Medical Center. “We are proposing the use of skin as an agricultural land where you can essentially grow any cell of interest,” says Sen.