Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers Put Squeeze on Cells to Deliver

23.07.2013
Imagine being able to redirect powerful immune cells to fight cancer. How about reprogramming a diabetic’s skin cell into a cell that could manufacture the insulin their pancreas no longer produces? Could we dial down the production of fat cells in obese adolescents?

These are major health problems and medical challenges that may be more achievable with a new fundamental technology that gets vital control molecules into cells faster, safer, and more effectively.

NIBIB-funded engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a rapid and highly efficient system for transferring large molecules, nanoparticles, and other agents into living cells, providing new avenues for disease research and treatment. Cells carrying these “transferred molecules”– the intended therapy - can be used in many ways, including therapeutic and diagnostic interventions in patients and experimental therapies in animal models of disease.

The technique offers a powerful tool for probing how cells and their molecular components work by studying how transferred molecules affect a cell’s behavior and functions.

The system uses controlled mechanical force (relatively gentle squeezing) that is non-toxic to cells, unlike other methods that use viruses, chemicals or electric shock, which can kill cells and damage the transferred molecules. In addition, the new device is “high throughput,” which means it works rapidly, treating a remarkable 20,000-100,000 cells per second.

The speedy transfer of therapeutic molecules into cells with minimal cell damage and death allows millions of cells to be treated in a very short period of time. This is important because usually, large numbers of treated cells are needed to achieve diagnostic and therapeutic effects.

The system was developed through a collaboration between the laboratories of Robert Langer and Klavs Jensen, both at MIT. The work is published in the February 5 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

How it works

The device, known as a microfluidic delivery platform, is made up of channels etched into a silicon microchip through which cells initially can flow freely. However, as the cells move through the device --like an inner tube along a water slide-- the channel width narrows until a cell finds itself in a tight spot -- forced to fit through a space that is narrower than the cell. The supple cell membrane allows the cell to squeeze through the constriction. However, the forced, rapid change in cell shape creates temporary holes in the cell membrane, without permanently damaging or killing the cell.

While the cell membrane is temporarily disrupted, the molecules to be delivered pass through the holes in the membrane and enter the cell. As the cell rebounds to its normal shape, the holes in the membrane close; the cell is loaded successfully. Virtually any type of molecule can be delivered into large numbers of any type of cell.

New technique expands experimental and therapeutic possibilities

The new system has distinct advantages over those currently in use. For example, a common technique known as electroporation cannot successfully deliver nanoparticles because they get damaged or inactivated by the electric pulse that is applied to disrupt the cell membrane. Two such nanoparticles are quantum dots and gold nanoparticles, which can be used to track cells inside the body because their electrical properties make them highly visible using biological imaging techniques. Using the new MIT technique, which disrupts the cell membrane by mechanical force rather than an electrical pulse, the team successfully transferred these nanoparticles without damaging their electrical properties. Therefore, the new technique allows researchers to load these electrically sensitive nanoparticles into cells and follow them through the body to diagnose disease and monitor treatments.

Another significant advantage of the relatively gentle, yet highly effective technique is the ability to transfer molecules into fragile cells that do not survive the current methods. One such cell type is skin cells taken directly from an individual. Using the new mechanical force system the team successfully transferred a set of proteins into freshly obtained human skin cells, where the proteins acted to transform the skin cells into stem cells. Stem cells are an “all purpose” type of cell that scientists are eagerly working with to develop new regenerative therapies. The ability to easily make stem cells from an individual’s skin cells, using this new technique, is a significant step that promises to accelerate the development of stem cell based therapies to regenerate diseased or damaged tissues.

Some of the most exciting uses for this new system are likely to take the form of novel therapies. Armon Sharei, a graduate student in the Jensen laboratory and one of the lead developers of the technique, described a therapeutic application that the researchers are particularly excited about: “Our big push today is in the field of immunology. Immune cells are very resistant to traditional transfer techniques, yet they hold enormous therapeutic potential. In close collaboration with other laboratories, we hope to use this technology to harness the power of the patient’s own immune system to combat complex immune disorders that currently have no effective treatments.”

The project was supported partially by an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) NIH Challenge Grant. The special two-year grants supported research on Challenge Topics that addressed specific scientific and health research challenges in biomedical and behavioral research. Dr. Rosemarie Hunziker, the NIBIB Program Director for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine elaborates: “The goal of the ARRA awards was to support studies that could produce important innovations within a short time frame. We certainly achieved that here. This deceptively simple new way to control cell behavior offers exciting promise for studies of basic cell biology as well as enabling cell-based therapies previously only envisioned. Now that the basic principle has been established here, numerous novel applications can be pursued by diverse teams of scientists and engineers. It’s what we do at NIBIB--enable technologies capable of making a profound difference in medical care and the lives of patients.”

-- Tom Johnson

This work was funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering with additional support from the National Institute of Craniofacial and Dental Research and the National Cancer Institute

Margot Kern | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.nih.gov

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides
16.07.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

nachricht The secret sulfate code that lets the bad Tau in
16.07.2018 | American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino

16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides

16.07.2018 | Life Sciences

New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon

16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>