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Una nueva dimensión en trasplante

En un avance tecnológico, los investigadores de ETH Zurich han anunciado el desarrollo de una nueva técnica que puede trasplantar mitocondrias, las diminutas centrales eléctricas de la célula, de una célula viva a otra con una eficiencia sin igual.

Así como el cuerpo humano se puede dividir en diferentes órganos, como el corazón, los pulmones, los riñones, el intestino o el hígado, nuestras células también constan de varios sistemas complementarios e interdependientes. Estos se conocen como orgánulos, es decir, órganos pequeños. Y así como a veces podemos agregar varias décadas a la vida de un paciente con enfermedad renal al trasplantar un riñón sano, algún día también podremos rejuvenecer células individuales al trasplantar componentes celulares.

Esta perspectiva puede parecer ciencia ficción, pero los nuevos hallazgos del grupo de investigación dirigido por Julia Vorholt en el Instituto de Microbiología de ETH Zurich sugieren que ahora ha alcanzado el punto de viabilidad técnica. En su investigación, publicada recientemente en la revista PLOS Biology, el grupo utilizó con éxito una ‘nanosjeringa’ que habían desarrollado previamente para trasplantar mitocondrias de una célula viva a otra.

Las mitocondrias son las diminutas centrales eléctricas de la célula donde tienen lugar los procesos de respiración celular, procesos que originalmente evolucionaron en las bacterias hace más de 2 mil millones de años. Con el tiempo, algunas bacterias se unieron a otras células para formar una comunidad interdependiente en un proceso llamado endosimbiosis, que desempeñó un papel importante en el desarrollo evolutivo de la vida en la Tierra. La endosimbiosis es, en última instancia, lo que condujo a la evolución de todos los organismos multicelulares que consisten en células complejas, desde hongos y plantas hasta animales, incluidos los humanos.

La endosimbiosis hizo que las bacterias antiguas evolucionaran gradualmente hacia las mitocondrias, los orgánulos que son responsables de la producción de energía en las células complejas de hoy. En las células humanas, las mitocondrias forman una red dinámica similar a un hilo. Utilizando nanojeringas cilíndricas que se desarrollaron especialmente para este estudio, los investigadores perforaron la membrana celular y succionaron las mitocondrias esféricas. Luego perforaron la membrana de una célula diferente y bombearon las mitocondrias de la nanojeringa hacia la célula receptora.

La posición de la nanojeringa se controla mediante la luz láser de un microscopio de fuerza atómica convertido. Un regulador de presión ajusta el flujo, lo que permite a los científicos transferir volúmenes increíblemente pequeños de líquido en el rango de femtolitros (millonésimas de millonésima de mililitro) durante los trasplantes de orgánulos.

Las mitocondrias trasplantadas también tienen una alta tasa de supervivencia, más del 80 por ciento. En la mayoría de las células, las mitocondrias inyectadas comienzan a fusionarse con la red filamentosa de la nueva célula 20 minutos después del trasplante. Esto es cierto en la mayoría de los casos, aunque en algunas células son víctimas del sistema de control de calidad de la célula huésped y se degradan.

En su artículo, los investigadores escriben que “la técnica presentada en este artículo facilitará las aplicaciones en diversas áreas de investigación en el futuro”. Es concebible que pueda usarse para rejuvenecer las células madre, cuya actividad metabólica disminuye a medida que envejecen. Pero el equipo de Vorholt actualmente persigue otros planes.

Más información: ETH Zurich

Mitochondria transplantation between living cells:

61 thoughts on “Una nueva dimensión en trasplante

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