Biotechnological advancements in the recent past, such as induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) and viral gene transfer technologies revealed it is possible to induce plasticity in terminally differentiated cells. Unfortunately, these techniques require lengthy laboratory processes and also carry safety concerns including possible increased risk of inducing cancer. Unlike the aforementioned methods, the newly developed Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT) approach for inducing cellular plasticity does not require elaborate laboratory procedures and is capable of producing direct cell conversion in vivo.

The TNT system consists of two components: a hardware chip, and a cargo load containing a combination of cell reprogramming factors specific to the cell type attempting to be induced/produced. The chip portion is fabricated to apply an intense and focused electrical field that electrophoretically drives the supplied reprogramming factors into the desired cells via nanoelectroporation.

Separate studies conducted using murine models showed this technology was capable of converting skin fibroblasts into endothelial cells which eventually formed viable blood vessels within 7 days, as well as neuronal cells resembling those found in the developing brain, respectively. The simple and minimally-invasive cellular reprogramming approach offered via the TNT technique therefore holds great promise in providing a viable point-of-care delivery method for cellular reprogramming based therapies and possibly other biotechnology applications as well.

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D. Gallego-Perez, D. Pal, S. Ghatak, V. Malkoc, S. Gnyawali, L. Chang, W. Liao, J. Shi, M. Sinha, E. Steen, A. Sunyecz, R. Stewart, M. Homsy, W. Lu, S. Khanna, C. Rink, J. Otero, L.J. Lee, C.K. Sen, Topical tissue nano-transfection mediates non-viral stroma reprogramming and rescue. Nature Nanotechnology. 2017.