According to a recent press release, researchers at Ohio State University have discovered how to inject a precise dose of a gene therapy agent directly into a single living cell without the use of a needle.
This technique, “nanochannel electroporation,” or NEP uses electricity to propel pieces of therapeutic biomolecules through a tiny channel and into a cell in a fraction of a second. In tests the researchers were able to insert agents into the cells in as little as a few milliseconds, or thousandths of a second.
“NEP gets around the problem of most human cells being too small for even the smallest needles by suspending a cell inside an electronic device with a reservoir of therapeutic agents nearby. Electrical pulses then push the agent out of the reservoir and through a nanometer scale channel in the device, through the cell wall, and ultimately into the cell. Researchers are able to control the dose by adjusting the number of pulses and the width of the channel.”
Professor L. James Lee who is the Helen C. Kurtz Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the director of the NSF, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center for Affordable Nanoengineering of Polymeric Biomedical Devices of Ohio state, stated that “NEP allows us to investigate how drugs and other biomolecules affect cell biology and genetic pathways at a level not achievable by any existing techniques.”
As of right now, the technique is only suitable for laboratory research because it only works on one cell or several cells at a time. Lee 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 100,000 cells at once, which would potentially make clinical diagnostics and treatments possible.