A research team at the University of California, Berkeley, has achieved a significant step toward one of the futuristic goals of nanomedicine and nanobiology-developing technology for "wiring" together individual cells. This demonstration opens the way to connect cells via nanowires to external sensors and other devices for real-time monitoring of intracellular biochemical processes.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a team led by Bruce Conklin, Ph.D., and Peidong Yang, Ph.D., report what they claim to be the first demonstration of a direct nanowire connection to individual mammalian cells without the use of force that can damage or kill cells. The investigators connected human embryonic kidney cells and mouse embryonic stem cells to silicon nanowires, using an approach in which the wires penetrated into cells naturally as the cells grew in cultures.
In their paper, the researchers report that the nanowire-impaled cells survived for several days and that they were able to derive and maintain heart muscle cells from the mouse embryonic stem cells. The investigators also were able to use the silicon nanowire array to deliver genes into the impaled cells and then monitor the success of that gene delivery using the silicon nanowires as intracellular sensors.
This work is detailed in the paper "Interfacing silicon nanowires with mammalian cells." Investigators from the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, in San Francisco, also participated in this study. This paper was published online in advance of print publication. An abstract of this paper is available through PubMed. View abstract.