Dr. Chandan Sen, the director of the Ohio State University's Center for Regenerative Medicine & Cell Based Therapies and co-author of the new study, said that with this technology, they can turn skin cells into cells of any organ with "just one touch".
The method, called Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT), reprograms cells through a device that uses nanotechnology.
In a series of lab tests, explains Sen on the university website, researchers applied the chip to the injured legs of mice that vascular scans showed had little to no blood flow.
Results of the trial showed that a week after it was made, blood vessels started appearing in the injured leg. "With this technology, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch", he said.
"This is hard to imagine, but it is achievable, successfully working about 98 percent of the time", says Sen.
That reprogramming turns skin cells into almost any type of cell doctors might need to treat a patient - a breakthrough technology in regenerative medicine.
'It takes just a fraction of a second.
To work, a doctor merely needs to place the chip on a person's wound and the device sends an electrical pulse that converts living cells into whatever cells the body needs them to be. The process is non-invasive, and because the reprogrammed cells are already in the patient's body, immune suppression is not required to make sure the new tissue is accepted.
The chip is simply placed onto the skin and can begin to create new specialised cells in "less than a second", scientists said. The tech was also used to create nerve cells from skin that were then harvested and injected into mice with brain injuries to help them recover.
To test the device's healing capabilities, Sen and his colleagues took a few mice with damaged leg arteries and placed the chip on the skin near the damaged artery.
'It extends the concept known as gene therapy, and it has been around for quite some time, ' said study collaborator James Lee, PhD, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State. The findings were published August 7 in Nature nanotechnology.
Other scientists are already investigating ways of reprogramming cells to fix the body, but what makes this particular technique stand out is that it skips the usual intermediary step of creating pluripotent stem cells, cells that can then turn into any other cell type.
"Seven days later, we saw new vessels and 14 days later, we saw [blood flow] through the whole leg", said Sen. Gambhir also noted the field has advanced "tremendously" in the past 10 to 15 years.