"The findings may be adopted to find cures and treatments for a wide range of diseases," said lead researcher Jean-Philippe Pellois, associate professor of biochemistry at Texas University, US.

"This is something that for many years people have tried to do, because proteins are basic components of the cell. They are the molecules that are doing all kinds of jobs inside the cell," Pellois said.

"Being able to deliver a protein to change or study what the cell is doing is extremely useful and the method could be used in the battle against cancer," he added.

"A way to kill a cancer cell is to deliver a protein that is known to be a tumour suppressor. In general, a scientist can deliver the DNA that codes for the protein into a cell, but that requires crossing the cell membrane, which damages or kills the cell," he explained.

Also, the amount of protein produced by DNA expression is hard to control, and the DNA introduced can also alter the genome of cells in an uncontrollable and unpredictable manner.

"We bypass this and deliver the protein directly and the method we found delivers the protein very efficiently," Pellois said.

He said the field of regenerative medicine could be one of the first practical applications because research there aims at reprogramming cells, for example, using a patient's skin cells reprogrammed as heart or liver cells to help that person recover from an illness.

"You can use those cells as therapeutic tools themselves that can repair damaged organs and tissues," Pellois said.

The study was published in the journal Nature Methods.


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