Enlarge (credit: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center )

With a jolt from a tiny chip, humdrum skin cells may transform into medical mavericks.

A small electrical pulse blasts open tiny pores in the cells and zaps in fragments of DNA or RNA loaded in the chip’s nanochannels. Those genetic deliveries can then effectively reprogram the skin cells to act like other types of cells and repair damaged tissue. In early experiments on mice, researchers coaxed skin cells to act like brain cells. They also restored blood flow to a rodent’s injured limb by prompting skin cells to grow into new blood vessels.

The technology, published this week in Nature Nanotechnology, is still a long way from confirmed clinical applications in humans. But, the Ohio State researchers behind the chip are optimistic that it may one day perform myriad medical feats—including healing severe injuries, restoring diseased organs, erasing brain damage, and even turning back the clock on aging tissues.

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