Tiny nano-device for gene therapy

Scientists create the Nanoinjector, a tiny nano-device one hundredth the size of a human hair, in newest gene therapy advance, used to transfer genes and DNA to new cells.

Above: An image of the microscopic nanoinjector created by scientists at BYU for gene therapy.  Credit BYU

A team of Brigham Young University (BYU) scientists has developed a way to significantly reduce cell death when introducing DNA into egg cells. The researchers have created a microscopic lance that delivers DNA to the cells through electrical forces.
The ability to transfer a gene or DNA sequence from one animal into the genome of another plays a critical role in the medical research of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

But the traditional method of transferring genetic material into a new cell, microinjection, has a serious downside. This method uses a hollow needle to pump a DNA-filled liquid into an egg cell nucleus, but that extra fluid causes the cell to swell and die 40 percent of the time.

Brian Jensen, BYU professor of mechanical engineering, said:

“Because DNA is naturally negatively charged, it is attracted to the outside of the lance using positive voltage. Once we insert the lance into a cell, we simply reverse the polarity of the electrical force and the lance releases the DNA.”

Tiny nano-device for gene therapy

This microscopic image shows the lance before and during nanoinjection occurs with a mouse zygote. Credit BYU

sources BYU,   Scitation.aip.org