Ohio State University scientists are pioneering a novel nanoscale technique to inject a precise dose of a gene therapy agent directly into a single living cell. Rather than needles, the technique uses electricity to "shoot" bits of therapeutic biomolecules through a tiny channel and into a cell. Researchers named the new technique nanochannel electroporation or NEP.
NEP addresses the problem that most human cells are too small for needles to be useful in gene therapy. With NEP, the cell is suspended inside an electronic device with therapeutic agent close by. Electrical pulses “push” the agent through a nanometer channel, through a cell wall and into the cell. Dosage is controlled by the number of pulses and width of the channel.
The work was led by L. James Lee, who is the Helen C. Kurtz Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and director of the NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center for Affordable Nanoengineering of Polymeric Biomedical Devices at Ohio State. The prototype device and the therapy is described in Nature Nanotechnology.