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Nanowires Inject Molecules Into Living Cells

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the just-a-little-pinch dept.

Biotech 45

TechRev_AL writes "A scientist at Harvard University has developed a clever trick for manipulating the insides of living cells. Hongkun Park grows cells on top of nanowires so that the wires poke into them like needles, which allows molecules to be delivered inside them. To use the nanowires to deliver molecules, Park's team first treats them with a chemical that would allow molecules to bind relatively weakly to the surface of the nanowires. Then they coat the wires with a molecule or combination of molecules of interest. When cells are impaled on the nanowires, the molecules are released into the cells' interior. This gallery of images shows the cells growing on top of the nanowires."

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45 comments

also: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30759048)

niggers inject aids into cmdrtaco's asshole.

Re:also: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30762158)

Jealous are you?

NIKE JORDAN SHOES,COACH,GUCCI,HANDBAGS,POLO,TSHIRS (-1, Troll)

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try injecting some brains into... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30759436)

try injecting some brains into comic book losers and linux using faggots.

I feel so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30759462)

violated.

Re:I feel so... (4, Funny)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#30759562)

I wonder if anything in nature *cough* asbestos *cough* operates similarly by providing ingress to the cell.

Re:I feel so... (1)

schmidt349 (690948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30759874)

Yeah, I was going to say this sounds like mesothelioma city. I think it's only being used for in vitro cell lines in laboratories, though.

Reistance is futile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30759524)

You will be assimilated

Yay! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Cowar (1608865) | more than 4 years ago | (#30759598)

Sweet! Now let's see combine this with past work [physorg.com] with nanowires and make the world's first Living TV! Plasma tv that uses your own plasma? I'm game.

Re:Yay! (1)

daniorerio (1070048) | more than 4 years ago | (#30762234)

those frame rates of 3 frames per day are going to suck though (approximate time it will take a cell to synthesize a fluorescent protein from delivered RNA / DNA)

Boring! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30759618)

No more science please. Please put up another article about video games or some shit.

Video Games! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30759930)

Science is dull and for nerds. More talk about video games, comic books and fake science fiction!

Re:Video Games! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30760056)

science fiction -is- fake you nigger loving cocksucker. so by saying fake science fiction your entering a double negative and making it fiction.

Re:Video Games! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30760304)

So a lie about a lie is the truth? That's stupid and so are you.

Ugh, there goes the neighborhood (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30760030)

Before you know it, every snot nosed punk looking to be "cool" and "tough" will be walking around with nanoscopic piercings.

Sure beats electroporation... (5, Interesting)

aczysz (1275484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30760032)

As someone who has spent plenty of hours in lab begging my cells to take up whatever GFP protein is the flavor of the week, something like this really could be interesting. As I see it, this would be a whole new class of transfection protocols in addition to chemical and electrical methods. Cost and the idea of actually poking holes makes it more similar to the latter, but it does have some unique differences. The most obvious is that you'd have a broader class of molecules that one can inject since there is practically no membrane interaction. Also, while the plates may be costly, there is no need for an expensive electroporation machine.

Re:Sure beats electroporation... (1)

TropicalCoder (898500) | more than 4 years ago | (#30760086)

Sounds kind'a cruel to me. I mean - how would you like it if they did that to you? I suppose the scientists who poked the cells with the nano-wires used to tear the wings off of flies as children.

Re:Sure beats electroporation... (1)

aczysz (1275484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30760160)

And how! But actually, a bunch of tiny pricks or a big shock of electricity? Hmm.

Re:Sure beats electroporation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30761850)

Sounds kind'a cruel to me. I mean - how would you like it if they did that to you? I suppose the scientists who poked the cells with the nano-wires used to tear the wings off of flies as children.

No, but they pulled cells off of wings of flies.

Re:Sure beats electroporation... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30761700)

As someone who has spent plenty of hours in lab begging my cells to take up whatever GFP protein is the flavor of the week, something like this really could be interesting. As I see it, this would be a whole new class of transfection protocols in addition to chemical and electrical methods. Cost and the idea of actually poking holes makes it more similar to the latter, but it does have some unique differences. The most obvious is that you'd have a broader class of molecules that one can inject since there is practically no membrane interaction. Also, while the plates may be costly, there is no need for an expensive electroporation machine.

I work two floors up from the Park lab, and I'm going to put the probability of this stuff being used for transfection between 'unlikely' and 'exceedingly unlikely'. Their biological work is really mostly a smokescreen and excuse to do nanofabrication work. In the case of mammalian transfection, it is true that this may find some limited application, but in all likelihood the sensitivity of the scaffolds involved here will result in products that are 1) single use, 2) expensive and 3) unlikely to be fabricated by biological labs. While you note that expense is an issue, I don't see this as reasonable - electroporation machines cost on the order of thousands of dollars (a drop in the bucket of most labs' total startup expenses) and are useful for bacterial, fungal and mammalian e-poration work. This is unlikely to be broadly useful to anything besides fragile mammalian cells - the small size and thick outer membrane/cell wall of yeast, bacteria et al are such that transfection efficiencies will be dwarfed for a long time by the classical method. Due to this and expense issues, unless you work with some hardcore kinds of inorganic chemists, this is very unlikely to make it into anyone's molecular biology toolkit. Like so much stuff coming out of Chemistry groups right now - cute and cool but not likely to be of any real value in the next decade or three.

Re:Sure beats electroporation... (2, Interesting)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30763154)

Like so much stuff coming out of Chemistry groups right now - cute and cool but not likely to be of any real value in the next decade or three.

While I agree with all of that, I'm reminded of Faraday's famous quip when asked what good electricity is: "What good is a baby?"

When people complain about the short-term mindset of the modern world, this is what they're speaking of: we can give individual cells injections! The cool factor alone is worth it, and as someone who has had the misfortune of analying gene expression data from chemically transfected human cell lines I can tell you just the dream of the possibility of being able to mechanically inject cells with interesting molecules puts a smile on my face. The thought of the cells being chemically pristine instead of almost terminally messed up by the transfection process is just delightful.

Think of this as equivalent to a single atom trap: not something that every lab has, but a technique that has allowed us to do some amazing physics by making precision, controlled measurements on a single atom that we couldn't possibly make otherwise.

Re:Sure beats electroporation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30764764)

While that's all well and good, we don't have and will not have tools for studying single mammalian cells with any kind of molecular rigor for several decades yet. I do agree that it's cool, that's not in question at all, but claims of usefulness or really strong generality of the method are almost entirely unsubstantiated.

Re:Sure beats electroporation... (1)

aczysz (1275484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30763534)

Didn't they use this for siRNA transfection in their publication? I haven't spend a lot of time looking at their exact setup, but the concept behind their model doesn't seem impossible to adopt into a mass-producible product that would be expense, but not prohibitive. While a lot more physiology needs to be studied before we can understand what kinds of drawbacks this might make, current methods of changing lipid composition or poking electrically-induced holes in the membrane (without a needle to fill it) have significant changes in the membrane structure. If you're studying membrane proteins/interactions this is a significant drawback. At least in this technique, you have some knowledge of exactly how big and numerous these needle-induced holes are.

Re:Sure beats electroporation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30765078)

They did. The problem with mass production of these things is simply the cost of building it. Techniques for widespread production of these things do not yet exist. Additionally, current techniques for studying single cells in the manner in which you speak are 1) Microscopy, 2) ...Yeah, it's just microscopy, in particular the ultra high res stuff of Xiaowei Zhuang in the same department as Hongkun. Additionally, the idea that this is non-perturbative is somewhat exaggerated - there are still no studies on that, though I do agree with you that it's likely to be less perturbative than electroporation. My thought is this - while this may provide a good platform for studying the actual process of transfection (something which does not occur in the natural world in mammalian cells, except through virally mediated transduction or mating, which provide their own mechanisms for single cell study not aided by this work), I feel that this does not provide a significant improvement to the molecular biologist's current toolkit, even assuming it works as advertised.

DOOM anyone? (1)

logjon (1411219) | more than 4 years ago | (#30760094)

for some reason my first thought was that this could be applied to building a cyberdemon.

Re:DOOM anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30760688)

for some reason my first thought was that this could be applied to building a cyberdemon.

Nah, more like Deus Ex myself. The Gray Death, next will be Paul & JC Denton, augmentation, biocells, mmm, sounds like fun!

Been there, done that... (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#30760096)

A scientist at Harvard University has developed a clever trick for manipulating the insides of living cells.

And the rest of us had been using money, sex, and beer all these years.

Completely bypassing the cell's "firewall"? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30760106)

Which is every pathogen’s wet dream.

What could possibly go wrong...?

Re:Completely bypassing the cell's "firewall"? (4, Insightful)

aczysz (1275484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30760180)

This really wouldn't have an potential outside of the lab in terms of pathogenic entry. If you used the technique to inject material into cells that were designed for later human implantation, they would have been transferred to non-spiked surfaces for at least sometime after molecule injection and before implantation. Thus the pathogen's entry point would have been long severed.

Re:Completely bypassing the cell's "firewall"? (1)

TheClockworkSoul (1635769) | more than 4 years ago | (#30760852)

Which is every pathogen’s wet dream.

What could possibly go wrong...?

Just imagine how they would feel if we started growing whole people on beds of nanowires!

Re:Completely bypassing the cell's "firewall"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30762844)

Like, a 3D replicator / printer, f'rinstance ? Scan 'n Clone ?

Could have its uses...

Spare parts 'n limbs, f'rexample...

Or 'murderless' steaks. Or a-mercurial - and 'murderless' - seafood.
( Depending on where the nutrients get culled from, I s'ppose. )

Anybody able to give real world application? (3, Interesting)

jtollefson (1675120) | more than 4 years ago | (#30760638)

It would be really good if somebody could explain why this is useful. It sounds like it could be, but, an explanation of practical application would be awesome. =)

Re:Anybody able to give real world application? (1)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | more than 4 years ago | (#30762190)

Direct neural interfaces As I understand it its making the connection between electronic and biological parts that's the problem. This goes at least part of the way to solving it.

Re:Anybody able to give real world application? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30763828)

Gene therapy. Getting the stuff into the cell is the hard part because cells are mostly there to keep that sort of thing out.

Interestingly, Kim Stanley Robinson used this in his 2006 novel Sixty Days and Counting. Finger on the pulse!

Re:Anybody able to give real world application? (2, Interesting)

Ledgem (801924) | more than 4 years ago | (#30775186)

I'm a graduate student in immunology research, so when I first read this over I immediately began to think about how I could use it in my own research. I can think of quite a few applications.

I won't go into the details of my project (that'd be a few paragraphs right there and I'd lose people's attention), but it's heavily based on cell signaling. In a molecular biology course you were probably exposed to the fact that cells have a whole lot going on inside of them - various receptors trigger various proteins; those proteins alter other proteins (either activating them or shutting them off); proteins can trigger transcription factors, which go to the DNA and influence the protein field... and so on. It can get pretty complicated, but it's like a big puzzle. Pretty fun, as long as your experiments are working properly and you're not in 100% uncharted territory!

The standard way that people map cell signaling pathways is by using inhibitors and stimulators. Generally this means that you want a drug that has a very high specificity, a known target, and a known function. By treating the cell with that drug, you affect one part of the pathway and try to determine what happens to other parts of the signaling pathway. You determine the relationships in that manner. (siRNA is increasingly becoming a standard for "knocking down" targets, as well.)

But how do you get a drug or siRNA plasmid into a cell? With drugs you generally have to culture the cells with them right up to the limit where it's toxic to the cells; with siRNA you need to package it into viruses and then infect your cells (infection rates generally aren't so hot - you could also do electroporesis, but that's a bit stress on the cells). Assuming I'm understanding the reality of the nanotubes correctly and am not totally off in a daydream, this would let you bypass a lot of those concerns and just get your products into the cells pretty easily. I'm not sure what the efficiency of this method would be, but it could be promising.

Just as a disclaimer to any other biologists reading this, I work with primary cells and our cells of interest occur in very low numbers (hence low infection rates and/or methods that stress and kill off large numbers of our cells are very undesirable). People who work with cell lines have it easy! =)

Nature has been there, done that (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30761568)

http://www.nature.com/ncb/journal/v11/n12/abs/ncb1990.html

M-Sec promotes membrane nanotube formation by interacting with Ral and the exocyst complex.

Abstract:
Cell-cell communication is essential for the development and homeostasis of
multicellular organisms. Recently, a new type of cell-cell communication was
discovered that is based on the formation of thin membranous nanotubes between
remote cells. These long membrane tethers, termed tunneling nanotubes (TNTs),
form an intercellular conduit and have been shown to enable the transport of
various cellular components and signals. However, the molecular basis for TNT
formation remains to be elucidated. Here we report that a mammalian protein,
M-Sec, induces de novo formation of numerous membrane protrusions extending from
the plasma membrane, some of which tether onto adjacent cells and subsequently
form TNT-like structures. Depletion of M-Sec by RNA interference (RNAi) greatly
reduced endogenous TNT formation as well as intercellular propagation of a
calcium flux in a macrophage cell line. Furthermore, blockage of the interaction
of M-Sec with Ral and the exocyst complex, which serves as a downstream effector
of Ral, attenuated the formation of membrane nanotubes. Our results reveal that
M-Sec functions as a key regulator of membrane nanotube formation through
interaction with the Ral-exocyst pathway.

Cells behave normally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30762780)

The third page caption on the images says: "Cells growing on the nanowires appear to behave normally; these rat neurons even form connections." - http://www.technologyreview.com/article/24351/

In that picture, if you look you can see the neurons growing around the spikes. But if you look about a third of the way in from the left, near the top, you can see what almost looks like a spike that is blocking the connection. That looks like it could be detrimental.

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