Scientists have discovered a new way of controlling transplanted cells, a discovery which is expected to make cell therapies more effective.

Harvard stem cell researchers working at MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital have demonstrated a new method of controlling cells after transplant, making them do the necessary behavior such as correcting a defect on a cancer cell or replenishing lost tissue.

The study led by Jeffrey Karp and James Ankrum of Harvard Stem Cell Institute at the Brigham and Women's Hospital discussed how they used microparticles which supplied the cells with cues on how they should function over a period of time.

"Regardless of where the cell is in the body, it's going to be receiving its cues from the inside," Karp said in a news release. "This is a completely different strategy than the current method of placing cells onto drug-doped microcarriers or scaffolds, which is limiting because the cells need to remain in close proximity to those materials in order to function. Also these types of materials are too large to be infused into the bloodstream."

Karp's method, also called particle engineering, solves the problem of losing control over the cells after they have been transplanted. By turning the cells into pre-programmable units using the internalized particle, the researchers were able to cue the cells on how they should function.

According to Karp, the cells need 6-24 hours to absorb the particles effectively. After this, the cells can be used for transplant immediately or be preserved for future use. Once there is a patient who's in need of a cell transplant, the experts will just thaw the cells and administer the cell transplant.

Development of this technology to be used for common medical procedures may take years, but in order to speed up the process, the researchers hoped that there are more scientists who will keep on looking for applications of this technology. Karp's paper discussed many kinds of cells which can be engineered by his new method including immune cells, pancreatic cells, and stem cells.

The study was published in the journal Nature Protocols.