Researchers studied mice and pigs in these experiments. Within one week, active blood vessels appeared in the injured leg, and by the second week, the leg was saved. "This process only takes less than a second and is non-invasive, and then you're off".
"With this technology, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch", said Dr Sen.
While the ability to reprogram cells into being other cells is not new, this technology skips the old intermediary process that forces the skin cells to first become "pluripotent stem cells" before they can become functional cells for other organs.
If successful, this would be the first time that cells were reprogrammed in a living body, a scientific breakthrough. It involves using a nanotechnology-based chip and placing it on the skin of a patient. "You simply touch the chip to the wounded area, then remove it", Chandan Sen, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine and Cell-Based Therapies at Wexner, said in an OSU press release.
"This is hard to imagine, but it is achievable, successfully working about 98% of the time". As a result, the team found that they were able to convert skin cells directly into vascular cells - with the effect extending deeper into the limb, in effect building a new network of blood vessels.
Because it is the body's own cells that are being converted, the immune system does not attack them and so there is no need for immunosuppressant drugs.
"The concept is very simple", says L. James Lee, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering with Ohio State's College of Engineering. "Our technology keeps the cells in the body under immune surveillance, so immune suppression is not necessary". In my lab, we have ongoing research trying to understand the mechanism and do even better. The technology, for instance, helped restore the brain function in a mouse that suffered a stroke by growing brain cells on the animal's skin. "So this is the beginning, more to come".
There would be no laboratory-based procedures ahead of use, meaning patients could just pick it up from a GP surgery when it is readily available.
The device is now awaiting FDA approval, but Sen expects that TNT will be tested on humans within this year.
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