Nanotech

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Gene therapy is a re-emerging technology used to treat health conditions such as genetic disorders and cancer. However, the full potential of the therapy is hampered by the difficulty of reintroduced engineered cells into the patient. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis developed an effective method to make the task a lot easier. 

The researchers combined the Acoustic Shear Poration with electrophoresis to develop the new technique. It uses ultrasound waves and focused mechanical force to create nanoscale holes or pores in cell membranes. These nanoscale holes are big enough to accommodate nanoparticles that can be used for engineered cells. 

“We have demonstrated our poration technique using cancer cell lines and patient-derived, primary monocytes, which is an important achievement, but the end goal is to use the new combined method to successfully modify T cells from a patient’s immune system. We would take cells extracted from a patient, run them through our device and modify them, then they would be reintroduced to the patient. That’s the Holy Grail of personalized medicine and emerging gene therapies,” said Mark Meacham, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the School of Engineering and Applied Science at WUSTL. 

The new technique has near 100 percent efficiency in DNA insertion. Based on their experiment, the method can create holes with sizes from 100 to 150 nanometers in cell membranes. These holes can also last for up one minute, which is enough time to deliver large payloads into the cell. The technique may be used in almost any type of cell, suspension medium, most biomolecules, and nanomaterials. The importance of easier DNA insertion allows clinicians to apply therapies for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.