Rewriting Life

Nanowires as Needles to Poke Molecules into Cells

A simple method may solve the problem of getting stuff into cells.

Slideshow: Beds of vertical silicone nanowires can act as a method for delivering molecules into cells. In this falsely colored scanning electron micrograph, a connective-tissue cell rests on these tiny spikes, which impale the membrane and allow direct access into the cell.
Slideshow: A microscopic image of a cell with the structural protein tubulin tagged in fluorescent green is grown on a bed of nanowires, labeled with magenta (left). Viewing the cell without the wires shows the holes in its membrane where the nanowires have penetrated.
Slideshow: Cells growing on the nanowires appear to behave normally; these rat neurons even form connections.
Slideshow: The nanowires can be coated with various types of molecules to deliver them into cells. Here, the wires were used to deliver a gene encoding an orange-red fluorescent protein into human cells.
Slideshow: Silicon nanowires can deliver a variety of different molecules at the same time. Here, a fluorescent protein (green) and a small RNA molecule (magenta) have been simultaneously, and yet distinctly, administered to cultured cells in a checkered pattern. Arraying different molecules, alone or in combination, makes it possible to perform parallel screens.

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