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Tissue nanotransfection used to study exosomal cross talk between cells in wound healing new study reveals

Photo of Ghatak, Subhadip PhD

Tissue nanotransfection, or TNT technology, is known for its ability to reprogram tissue within the body. Previous studies have used this technology to grow blood vessels and nerve cells in the skin. For these studies, no stem cell injection is needed, and the procedure is completed in minutes. TNT technology does not require elaborate laboratory facilities and can be performed at the point of care in a field setting. A specialized silicon-based chip and genetic cargo can also be delivered depending on the need. Taken together, these often weigh less than 5 grams and gene transfer is achieved using a standard power supply.

This technology is undergoing further development at the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering at Indiana University School of Medicine. Unlike cell reprogramming or other such techniques conducted in a laboratory-based cell culture setting, TNT achieves tissue reprogramming within the immune system. Conflicts with the immune system are often an issue with transplanted cells, but don’t seem like much of a concern in present studies.     

Almost 10 million Americans suffer from wounds. This causes a major economic burden to the health care system and often leads to amputations. The rising incidence of diabetes and the growing elderly population makes wounds a significant health care threat. A new study in ACS Nano, a journal of the American Chemical Society, by IU School of Medicine’s Subhadip Ghatak, an assistant professor of surgery, and interdisciplinary collaborators, report on an innovative approach employing tissue nanotransfection technology to study exosomes.

Exosomes, carriers of information packets, are tiny balls with the diameter of human hair. The research showed that these exosomes are released from skin cells and enter the cells of the immune system to regulate inflammation. Inflammation is required for wound healing. However, when not resolved in a timely manner, inflammation can instead complicate wound healing. Using TNT technology, researchers investigated exosomes by the cells of origin, and this approach led to an understanding that may be utilized to benefit wound healing.  

“I am proud to be part of the original research team that invented TNT technology,” said Ghatak. “During the last two years, results with TNT have been promising in a number of fronts. In this work, the power of TNT in studying exosomes and their function is evident.”

Ghatak explained that exosomes help in cross-talk between cells within an organ and between organs and systems in the body. Work during the past five years illuminates exosomes and their function central to understanding the complexities of health and disease. Exosomes are ubiquitous and seem to be involved in almost all aspects of biology and medicine, making their study critically important. The researchers looked at surface protein chemistry of exosomes and found that they may function like a postal address, determining the destination of specific exosomes. In the study, researchers reported exosomes originating from skin cells targeted to carry information to macrophages, an important inflammatory cell of the immune system.  

 “When these mechanisms are better understood, exosomes will be of major therapeutic value,” Ghatak added.

“I congratulate Dr. Ghatak for assembling an extraordinary team of chemists, nanoscientists and biologists to answer a question of extraordinary significance – what role do exosomes play at the site of injury?” said Chandan K. Sen, PhD, the J. Stanley Battersby Chair and Distinguished Professor.

Sen is also a co-author of this new study and lead author on the original study reporting on TNT. At IU School of Medicine, Sen directs the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering. 

“This work adds a new facet to what Tissue Nanotransfection can achieve,” said Sen.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

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