Written for the University of Michigan’s One Cool Thing mobile app (05/18/15)

Coaxing organs to repair themselves

Using microscopic “nanoneedles”, a global team of researchers was recently able to help mice propagate new blood vessels within their bodies. As reported by io9, this technique could potentially be applied to humans to aid organ and nerve repair.

Nucleic acids, the foundation of all living organisms, will transmit genetic information and rebuild lost function when introduced into a cell. Researchers at Imperial College London and the Houston Methodist Research Institute pack nucleic acids into the highly porous, minuscule needles, which they use to pierce an existing cell membrane (without causing damage to the cell) and deliver the material needed for reconstruction. While the research is still in the animal testing phase, the restoration of human tissues and organs is the eventual aim of these researchers — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The needles could aid organ transplants as they ease into their new surroundings, as well as help flexible bandages to more effectively treat wounds.