Medical practices of the future could become much more efficient with the help of nanotechnology. During a recent experiment, an international team of scientists used nano-sized needles in order to promote production of new blood cells. If successful, this technology could be applied to the human body to repair damaged organs and nerves.
Researchers from Imperial College London and Houston Methodist Research Institute used nanoneedles to deliver nucleic acids into specific parts of cells and tissues. Afterwards, nucleic acids, which are the building blocks of every living organism and the transmitter of genetic information, do their magic to restore lost function. The needles, which are 1000 times smaller than a strand of human hair, bypass the outer membrane of the cell and deliver the necessary nucleic acid. Needles don't harm or kill the cells in any way and scientists could reprogram the cell structure from inside the cell. Since the needles are made from biodegradable silicon, they can stay in the body, without leaving any toxic residue. Until now, the team has been able to transfer nucleic acids to human cells in the laboratory, and they facilitated an increase in the formation of new blood vessels in the back muscles of mice, without any apparent side effects. Although tests on humans have not been done yet, the scientific breakthrough have important implications in medicine. The technology could be used to restore lost function in damaged tissues and organs or they could make organ transplants more effective by alleviating the related complications.
Story and image via Io9