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.

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

You've read of free articles this month.