APR 22, 2016 6:30 AM PDT

‘Honeycomb' for gene transfer kills fewer cells

Scientists have created a new and highly efficient method for gene transfer. The technique, which involves culturing and transfecting cells with genetic material on an array of carbon nanotubes, appears to overcome the limitations of other gene editing technologies.
 

Using the new method, the researchers observed that 98 percent of the cells survived and 85 percent were successfully transfected with the new genetic material.


“This platform holds the potential to make the gene transfer process more robust and decrease toxic effects, while increasing amount and diversity of genetic cargo we can deliver into cells,” says Ian Dickerson, an associate professor in the neuroscience department at the University of Rochester Medical Center and coauthor of the paper in the journal Small.

“This represents a very simple, inexpensive, and efficient process that is well-tolerated by cells and can successfully deliver DNA into tens of thousands of cells simultaneously,” says coauthor Michael Schrlau, an assistant professor in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering at RIT.

Gene transfer therapies have long held great promise in medicine. New gene editing techniques, such as CRISPR-Cas9, now enable researchers to precisely target segments of genetic code giving rise to a range of potential scientific and medical applications from fixing genetic defects, to manipulating stem cells, to reengineering immune cells to fight infection and cancer.

Scientists currently employ several different methods to insert new genetic instructions into cells, including creating small holes in the cell membrane using electrical pulses, injecting DNA into cells using a device called a “gene gun,” and employing viruses to “infect” cells with new genetic code.

However, all of these methods tend to suffer from two fundamental problems. First, these processes can be highly toxic, leaving scientists with too few healthy cells to work with. And second, these methods are restricted in the amount of genetic information—or “payload”—they can deliver into the cells, limiting their application. These techniques can also be time consuming and expensive.

Masoud Golshadi, first author of the paper, fabricated the new device in the Schrlau Nano-Bio Interface Laboratory at RIT. Using a process called chemical vapor deposition, the researchers created a structure akin to a honeycomb consisting of millions of densely packed carbo nanotubes with openings on both sides of a thin disk shaped membrane.

Researchers in the Dickerson Lab at at the University of Rochester employed the device to culture a series of different human and animal cells. After 48 hours, the cells were bathed in a medium that contained liquid DNA. The carbon nanotubes acted as conduits drawing the genetic material into the cells. Using this method, the researchers observed that 98 percent of the cells survived and 85 percent were successfully transfected with the new genetic material.

The mechanism of DNA transfer is still under investigation, but the researchers suspect it may be via a process called enhanced endocytosis, a method by which cells transfer bundles of proteins back and forth through the cell membrane.

The device has also shown the ability to successfully culture a wide range of cell types, including cells that are typically difficult to grow and keep alive, such as immune cells, stem cells, and neurons.

The researchers are now optimizing the technology in hopes that the device—which is inexpensive to produce—can be made available to researchers and, ultimately, used to develop new treatments for a range of diseases.

Funding from the Schmitt Program on Integrative Brain Research, the American-German Partnership to Advance Biomedical and Energy Applications of Nanocarbon, Texas Instruments, the Feinberg Foundation, and the Weizmann Institute of Science supported the work.

Source: University of Rochester

This article was originally published on futurity.org.

About the Author
MS
Futurity features the latest discoveries by scientists at top research universities in the US, UK, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The nonprofit site, which launched in 2009, is supported solely by its university partners (listed below) in an effort to share research news directly with the public.
You May Also Like
OCT 17, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Some Highly Repetitive Protein Sequences are Shared by Many Species
OCT 17, 2022
Some Highly Repetitive Protein Sequences are Shared by Many Species
Gene sequences are made up of nucleotide bases, which are 'read' by the cell's machinery in triplets; three ...
OCT 24, 2022
Neuroscience
Why is the Risk of Alzheimer's Higher in Women?
OCT 24, 2022
Why is the Risk of Alzheimer's Higher in Women?
Women tend to get Alzheimer's disease at a significantly higher rate than men; about two-thirds of people with the neuro ...
OCT 31, 2022
Cardiology
Why Heart Disease Is on the Radar With Cystic Fibrosis
OCT 31, 2022
Why Heart Disease Is on the Radar With Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) impacts roughly 35,000 people in the United States. CF results in a mutated form of the cystic fibr ...
NOV 05, 2022
Health & Medicine
Autism Study Reveals Widespread Transcriptomic Changes in the Brain
NOV 05, 2022
Autism Study Reveals Widespread Transcriptomic Changes in the Brain
We know of some risk factors for autism spectrum disorder, and like other neuropsychiatric disorders, there is a genetic ...
NOV 21, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
New Insights Into Parkinson's Pathology & A Drug Candidate
NOV 21, 2022
New Insights Into Parkinson's Pathology & A Drug Candidate
Over six million people have Parkinson's disease, and more are diagnosed every day. The neurodegenerative disease is cha ...
DEC 08, 2022
Plants & Animals
Almonds Could Help with Weight Loss
DEC 08, 2022
Almonds Could Help with Weight Loss
For years, weight loss fads have come and gone, highlighting an important trend in society: people often want to lose we ...
Loading Comments...