In what’s being called a breakthrough in regenerative medicine, Dr Chandan Sen and his team at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center has announced the development of a non-invasive chip that uses Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT) to alter skin cells into any kind of cell that doctors might need to treat a patient.
Stem cells, originally discovered in embryos and umbilical cords are of keen interest to medicine due to their ability, as undifferentiated “pluripotent” cells to develop into the specialized, “terminally differentiated” cells of the body. Terminally differentiated cells were previously thought to have had their ability to switch function irreversibly lost but Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell technology (iPSC) pioneered by Nobel Prize-winning Dr. Shinya Yamanaka demonstrated the possibility of inducing plasticity which enabled mature, fully-differentiated somatic cells to be directly converted into another cell type. Previous methods developed were extremely labor intensive, expensive and they carried many risks, including cancer. They were also not suitable for point-of-care.
The TNT method uses a chip, which conducts a focused electrical field through arrayed nanochannels to drive various reprogramming factors into the desired cells. Skin cells were thus transformed into blood vessels in animal trials. Using different reprogramming factors, skin cells were changed into neurons but Dr. Sen says that skin cells were just an example and that other cell types could be used. This has opened up a real possibility of enabling patients to produce their own stem cells in cellular therapies to treat everything from nerve damage, head injuries, rescue limbs and organs in a simple, one-time topical treatment which lasts seconds and does not involve costly, time-consuming laboratory procedures.
The Wexner Medical Center was funded by billionaire Les Wexner, CEO of the L Brands of chains of women’s clothing stores, which include The Limited and Victoria’s Secret. As an aside, Wexner’s assets were managed for many years by registered sex offender Jeff Epstein of Orgy Island and #PizzaGate infamy.