Breakthrough nano method of gene delivery developed

October 17th, 2011 - 10:55 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 17 (IANS) In a pioneering technique developed by US scientists, specific genes can now be painlessly and directly delivered into infected living cells without resorting to needle pricks.

Developed for the first time, the technique relies on electrical energy to “shoot” bits of therapeutic biomolecules (genes) through a tiny channel into a cell in the twinkling of an eye.

L. James Lee, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State University and colleagues successfully inserted specific doses of an anti-cancer gene into individual leukemia cells to kill them, the journal Nature Nanotechnology reports.

Dubbed as ‘nanochannel electroporation,’ or NEP, it “allows us to investigate how drugs and other biomolecules affect cell biology and genetic pathways at a level not achievable by any existing techniques,” said Lee, who led the study, according to an Ohio statement.

There have been ways to insert random amounts of biomaterial into bulk cells. And fine needles can inject specific amounts of material into large cells. But most human cells are too small for even the smallest of needles to be of any use.

NEP gets around the problem by suspending a cell inside an electronic device with a reservoir of therapeutic agent nearby.

Electrical pulses push the agent out of the reservoir and through a nanometer-scale (billionth of a metre) channel in the device, through the cell wall and into the cell. Researchers can control the dose by adjusting the number of pulses and the width of the channel.

At the moment, the process is best suited for lab research, Lee said, because it only works on one cell or several cells at a time.

But he and his team are working on ways to inject many cells simultaneously. They are currently developing a mechanical cell-loading system that would inject up to 100,000 cells at once.

-Indo-Asian News Service

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