It’s an iconic scene from all Dr. Frankenstein movies and books. A doctor, emboldened by his passion for science, cackles as a bolt of lightning delivers an electrical charge that brings his creation to life. Back in reality, we may not be zapping monsters into existence, but what we can now do with a single jolt of electricity is no less amazing. Straight from the pages of science fiction, tissue nanotransfection is poised to change medical science as we know it.
The science behind tissue nanotransfection is complicated, but the process itself is startlingly simple. A small piece of plastic containing a computer chip is placed on the skin over an injured area. Doctors send a small burst of electricity through the chip, and the patient’s body takes over from there. The chip (combined with the electrical jolt) converts nearby skin cells into vascular cells, which then go to work repairing whatever damage they find in the vicinity.
While this may read like something out of a Star Trek screenplay, researchers have found that the technology is surprisingly successful in tests.
“This is difficult to imagine, but it is achievable, successfully working about 98 percent of the time,” explains Dr. Chanden Sen, co-leader of the study at the Ohio State Center for Regenerative Medicine. “With this technology, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch. 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. Our technology keeps the cells in the body under immune surveillance, so immune suppression is not necessary.”
While the technology is still in the animal-testing phase, the results have been more than encouraging. Mice, for example, with injured legs have shown growth of new blood vessels within a week of the treatment.
The technology is also showing promise outside of blood vessel repair. The technology has also been used to transform skin cells into new nerve cells, which can then be injected into the brain to help a patient recover from ailments such as brain damage caused by stroke. In tests with mice, brain function was restored just weeks after stroke damage.
“The concept is very simple,” shares Dr James Lee, who founded the study with Dr. Sen. “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.”
Researchers hope to begin testing on humans as early as 2018. For a better idea of how the technology works, check out this video.
The results of the study seem very promising, and the technology could easily be something that you as a nurse see in your hospital or clinic in the not-too-distant future. So remember, the next time you see a ridiculous medicinal technology in a science fiction movie or book, don’t laugh just yet… it might be closer to reality than you think.
For more information on beginning your own career in healthcare, contact Unitek College today for a full breakdown of our multiple nursing and medical assistant programs.