* Gene therapy via skin could treat many diseases, even obesity
Scientists have hailed a “breakthrough” technology capable of re-growing damaged organs and healing serious wounds with the single touch of a penny-sized pad.
The new device uses Nano chips to reprogramme skin cells, which then generate any type of cell necessary for medical treatment. The non-invasive procedure takes less than a second and in laboratory trials was found to restore the function of badly damaged blood vessels within days.
Dubbed tissue Nano-transfection (TNT), the technique works by placing a small pad of Nano chips over a damaged area.
A small electric current then fires Deoxy ribonucleic Acid (DNA)/genetic material into the skin cells, converting them into the specific building block cells of any other part of the body, such as arteries, or even organs like the heart.
It promises to transform the chances of patients in need of complex reconstructive surgery, as well as those whose organs are prematurely ageing. The study is published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Also, scientists have now overcome challenges that have limited the use of gene therapy. They demonstrate how their novel approach with skin transplantation could enable a wide range of gene-based therapies to treat human diseases. The researchers provide ‘proof-of-concept,’ treating mice with two common related human ailments: type-2 diabetes and obesity. A research team based at the University of Chicago, United States (US), has overcome challenges that have limited gene therapy and demonstrated how their novel approach with skin transplantation could enable a wide range of gene-based therapies to treat many human diseases.
The study was published in issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell. Meanwhile, the US researchers who created the technology say it could even be used as a weapon against neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
They believe it will be possible to reprogramme skin cells to harvest brain cells in a peripheral part of the body, such as the arm, which can then be injected into the brain. The team at Ohio State University has successfully trialled TNT on pigs and mice, with a reported success rate of 98 per cent. In one experiment, blood flow in the severely injured leg of a mouse was restored in less than a week after the pad reprogrammed skin cells to create vascular cells.
After two weeks, the leg was substantially healed. Researchers plan to start clinical trials on humans next year. “With this technology, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch,” said Dr. Chandan Sen, who led the study.
“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.”
Unlike stem cell therapies, TNT would require no laboratory-based procedures ahead of use, meaning it could be implemented in everyday healthcare setting, such as a GP surgery. Because the new reprogrammed cells are produced under the guidance of the patient’s own immune system, there is no need for the immunosuppressant drugs that can be necessary when biological matter is transplanted.
The technique relies both nanotechnology-based chips designed to deliver the genetic cargo to adult cells in the body, as well as the specific biological information, which will determine how to reprogramme those cells.
“By using our novel Nano chip technology, injured or compromised organs can be replaced,” said Sen. “We have shown that skin is a fertile land where we can grow the elements of any organ that is declining.”
TNT extends the concept known as gene therapy, which has been known about for some time, however the big difference is how the DNA is delivered into the body. “The concept is very simple,” said Professor James Lee, who co-led the research.
“As a matter of fact, we were even surprised how it worked so well. “In my lab, we have ongoing research trying to understand the mechanism and do even better. “So, this is the beginning, more to come.”
“By using our novel Nano chip technology, injured or compromised organs can be replaced. We have shown that skin is a fertile land where we can grow the elements of any organ that is declining,” said Sen.
By Chukwuma Muanya
The Guardian News
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