A small chip, developed by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, has shown potential in repairing or restoring injured or aging tissue including organs, blood vessels, and nerve cells.

The chip, known as a Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT), is roughly the size of a cufflink. The TNT reprograms skin cells via the application of a highly intense and focused electric field through arrayed nanochannels. Current in vivo technologies entail potentially serious adverse effects, whilst the TNT chip, say the researchers, allows for a more focused and ample reprogramming factor delivery at the single-cell level.

“By using our novel nanochip 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 Dr. Chandan Sen, director of Ohio State’s Center for Regenerative Medicine & Cell Based Therapies, who co-led a study of the chip which is published in Nature Nanotechnology.

In the study, the device was analyzed on the skin of mice with badly injured legs using ABM and EFF gene plasmid cocktails (known to reprogram fibroblasts into induced neurons in vivo). Results showed that the skin cells were successfully reprogrammed into vascular cells, and within 2 weeks, the legs of these mice fully recovered and were saved. 

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Additionally, the TNT device was able to grow brain cells on the skin surface of a mouse; these were harvested and then injected into the injured mouse’s brain. Within weeks after having a stroke, the brain function in the mouse was restored. In the future, this technology could potentially have significant implications for human neurologic disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. 

“The concept is very simple,” said L. James Lee, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State and co-lead on the study. “As a matter of fact, we were even surprised how it worked so well.” 

As the device uses a patient’s owns cells and does not rely on medication, the researchers expect to be approved for human trials within a year.

For more information visit OSU.edu.com.