New technique builds microscopic medical devices for transplants

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The same technology that creates computer microchips may one day help treat diseases such as diabetes, according to an Ohio State University researcher.

Mauro Ferrari, professor of biomedical engineering at Ohio State, has devised a method for implanting tiny silicon capsules -- about the size of a pinhead -- beneath a patient's skin. Such capsules would carry healthy transplant cells that would take the place of the patient's malfunctioning cells by producing needed chemicals for the body. For example, capsules in diabetics could allow patients to produce insulin again, Ferrari explained.

Today, doctors suppress patients' immune systems with drugs to keep antibodies from destroying transplanted tissue, leaving patients open to infections. Ferrari's technique eliminates the need for immunosuppression, and for transplanting an entire organ when a few grams of healthy cells will do.

"If you can't beat the immune system, you hide from it," said Ferrari. He and his colleagues are working to nanomachine capsules with holes that are just the right size -- big enough to let the needed chemicals get out, but small enough to keep the antibodies from getting in.

In their latest study, Ferrari and his colleagues were able to create 2-millimeter capsules, each containing millions of

Contact: Mauro Ferrari
Ohio State University

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