medical breakthrough
The chip is only as big as a cuff link, but will need only a single touch to induce cell level reprogramming Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Researchers at Ohio State University have created a device that can heal damaged tissue after only a single touch by reprogramming cells from the skin using genetic code to reach injured or malfunctioning cells, healing them in the process.

The technology known as Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT), works by introducing a mild electrical current to a small cuff link-sized chip placed on the skin. "It takes just a fraction of a second. You simply touch the chip to the wounded area, then remove it," said Chandan Sen, PhD, director of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Cell-Based Therapies at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre.

"At that point, the cell reprogramming begins," he added. Genetic code will be provided by the chip and once it is activated, it will begin to reprogram cells. It was reported that the technique works with a 98% efficiency.

Cells that have been reprogrammed will transform themselves into cells that are needed for healing or replacement, said a university release. Skin cells can become vascular cells, brain cells or any other type of cells that are needed, they claim.

In a lab experiment, they were able to save an injured rat with this chip. After just a single touch, the rat's leg, which in scans showed close to no vascular activity and blood flow before the treatment, started to heal and slowly recover. "We reprogrammed the skin cells to become vascular cells," Sen said. "Within a week we began noticing the transformation."

Tissue reprogrammed
A mouse's leg was saved with just a single touch Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

In three weeks, the leg of the mouse was completely saved and healed without the need for any other form of treatment, claims the team.

When the chip is placed on the skin and current is applied, channels through the skin are created. DNA and RNA information is fed through these channels and they begin to reprogram cells as they take root, according to the report.

This treatment is instantaneous, but healing will take time, sometimes up to a few weeks, say researchers.

While applications on skin cells seem exciting enough, "it not only works on the skin, but on any type of tissue", Sen said. They were able to reprogram brain cells of a mouse on its skin and harvest them later on, inject them into the brain of an injured mouse and help the animal recover from a stroke. The researchers claim that the mouse experimented on actually healed.

As of now, scientists have only been able to test this technique on lab animals, but human trials are to begin shortly. Since their technology does not make use of any pharmaceuticals or medication, the team expects to get approval for human trials by next year.