Enabling technology for emerging gene therapies

IMAGE: This is the operation of the acoustic shear poration (ASP) device in the lab of Mark Meacham at the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis. view more 

Credit: Washington University in St. Louis

For years, researchers have attempted to harness the full potential of gene therapy, a technique that inserts genes into a patient’s cells to treat aggressive diseases such as cancer. But getting engineered DNA molecules into cells is not an easy task.

J. Mark Meacham, assistant professor of mechanical engineering & materials science at Washington University in St. Louis, leads a team of researchers at the School of Engineering & Applied Science that has developed a method enabling effective insertion of large molecules — such as DNA, RNA and proteins — into cells and propels them into the cell nucleus.

By combining a technique known as Acoustic Shear Poration (ASP) with electrophoresis, the approach uses ultrasound waves and focused mechanical force to create nanoscale holes, or pores, in the cell membrane that are big enough for large macromolecules or nanoparticles to pass into the cell’s interior.

The researchers wrote that so far, ASP has achieved greater than 75 percent delivery


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