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Pulse 29: 3D Printing and Nanotechnology Enable Spectacular Advances in Regenerative Medicine

Giulio Prisco Pulse Newsletter

Nanotech

The advanced medical applications of 3D printing and nanotechnology summarized below raise hopes for science-fictional therapies.

The nanotechnology-based regenerative medicine breakthrough achieved by Ohio State University scientists seems nothing short of spectacular. “Tissue Nanotransfection” could be used to repair and regenerate body tissues, including organs, in a way that is non-invasive and painless, IEEE Spectrum reports in a story titled “Repairing Organs With the Touch of a Nanochip.”

“When these things come out for the first time, it’s basically crossing the chasm from impossible to possible,” said Chandan Sen, co-leader of the study. “We have established feasibility.”

“By using our novel nanochip technology, injured or compromised organs can be replaced,” added Sen in Ohio State University news releases (see below). “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 … It takes just a fraction of a second. You simply touch the chip to the wounded area, then remove it.”

Tissue Nanotransfection: A breakthrough in regenerative medicine. Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Ohio State’s College of Engineering have developed fast and effective Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT) to inject genetic code into skin cells, turning those skin cells into other types of cells required for treating diseased conditions. TNT is based on a nanochip designed to deliver cargo to adult cells in the live body, and the design of specific biological cargo for cell conversion, both described in a research paper published in Nature Nanotechnology. The scientists plan to start clinical trials next year to test this technology in humans. Because the technique uses a patient’s own cells and does not rely on medication, researchers expect it to be approved for human trials within a year.​

Bioprinting complex living tissue and cartilage for regenerative medicine. Bioengineers at the University of Oxford have developed a new method to 3D-print laboratory-grown cells to form living structures. The research paper, published in Scientific Reports, shows how the scientists produced tissues with cells that could be assembled, layer-by-layer, into living structures. According to the scientists, this approach could revolutionize regenerative medicine, enabling the production of complex tissues and cartilage that would potentially support, repair or augment diseased and damaged areas of the body.

Nanoparticles and immunotherapy destroy cancer cells and vaccinate mice against cancer. By combining an FDA-approved cancer immunotherapy with an emerging tumor-killing nanotechnology, scientists at Duke University have improved the efficacy of both therapies in a proof-of-concept study using mice. The approach relies on a Duke-developed "photothermal immunotherapy" technology, which uses lasers and gold nanostars to heat up and destroy tumors in combination with an immunotherapeutic drug. The study, published in Scientific Reports, shows that the combination also attacked satellite tumors and distant cancerous cells, completely curing two mice and effectively vaccinating one against the disease.

Magnetic nanoparticles and fields for neuroscience studies (and remote control). Scientists at the University of Buffalo have used magnetic nanoparticles driven by magnetic fields to to stimulate neurons deep in the brain of laboratory mice, and control body movements that include running, rotating and losing control of the extremities. The study, published in eLife, describes a new technique called magneto-thermal stimulation, a remote, minimally invasive way to trigger activity deep inside the brain, turning specific cells on and off. According to the researchers, the technique could lead to advances in mapping the brain and treating neurological disease. Of course, it could also open ways to remote control.

Optimally selecting patients for lung cancer clinical trials. Researchers at Norton Thoracic Institute, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, have discovered that lung cancer patients whose tumors harbor specific genomic mutations are more likely to benefit from a novel drug currently in clinical trials. The research work, published in Cancer Research, identifies a therapeutic strategy that may be effective in a group of lung cancer patients without other options. Future work will identify patients likely to benefit from future clinical trials.

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