'Nanoneedles' Generate New Blood Vessels In Mice

'Nanoneedles' Generate New Blood Vessels In Mice
The image shows a single human cell (brown) on a bed of
nanoneedles (blue). This image was taken by the researchers
using electron microscopy.
(Credit: Imperial College London)
Scientists have developed tiny 'nanoneedles' that have successfully prompted parts of the body to generate new blood vessels, in a trial in mice. The researchers hope their nanoneedle technique could ultimately help damaged organs and nerves to repair themselves and help transplanted organs to thrive.

The nanoneedles work by delivering nucleic acids to a specific area. Nucleic acids are the building blocks of all living organisms and they encode, transmit and express genetic information. Scientists are currently investigating ways of using nucleic acids to re-program cells to carry out different functions.

The nanoneedles are tiny porous structures that act as a sponge to load significantly more nucleic acids than solid structures. This makes them more effective at delivering their payload. They can penetrate the cell, bypassing its outer membrane, to deliver nucleic acids without harming or killing the cell. The nanoneedles are made from biodegradable silicon, meaning that they can be left in the body without leaving a toxic residue behind. The silicon degrades in about two days, leaving behind only a negligible amount of a harmless substance called orthosilicic acid.

In a trial described in Nature Materials, the team showed they could deliver the nucleic acids DNA and siRNA into human cells in the lab, using the nanoneedles. They also showed they could deliver nucleic acids into the back muscles in mice. After seven days there was a six-fold increase in the formation of new blood vessels in the mouse back muscles, and blood vessels continued to form over a 14 day period. The technique did not cause inflammation or other harmful side effects.

The hope is that one day scientists will be able to help promote the generation of new blood vessels in people, using nanoneedles, to provide transplanted organs or future artificial organ implants with the necessary connections to the rest of the body, so that they can function properly with a minimal chance of being rejected.

The researchers are now aiming to develop a material like a flexible bandage that can incorporate the nanoneedles. The idea is that this would be applied to different parts of the body, internally or externally, to deliver the nucleic acids necessary to repair and reset the cell programming.

Based on material originally posted by Imperial College London.