Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A Shot To The Heart: Nanoneedle Delivers Quantum Dots to Cell Nucleus

28.09.2010
Getting an inside look at the center of a cell can be as easy as a needle prick, thanks to University of Illinois researchers who have developed a tiny needle to deliver a shot right to a cell’s nucleus.

Understanding the processes inside the nucleus of a cell, which houses DNA and is the site for transcribing genes, could lead to greater comprehension of genetics and the factors that regulate expression. Scientists have used proteins or dyes to track activity in the nucleus, but those can be large and tend to be sensitive to light, making them hard to use with simple microscopy techniques.

Researchers have been exploring a class of nanoparticles called quantum dots, tiny specks of semiconductor material only a few molecules big that can be used to monitor microscopic processes and cellular conditions. Quantum dots offer the advantages of small size, bright fluorescence for easy tracking, and excellent stability in light.

“Lots of people rely on quantum dots to monitor biological processes and gain information about the cellular environment. But getting quantum dots into a cell for advanced applications is a problem,” said professor Min-Feng Yu, a professor of mechanical science and engineering.

Getting any type of molecule into the nucleus is even trickier, because it’s surrounded by an additional membrane that prevents most molecules in the cell from entering.

Yu worked with fellow mechanical science and engineering professor Ning Wang and postdoctoral researcher Kyungsuk Yum to develop a nanoneedle that also served as an electrode that could deliver quantum dots directly into the nucleus of a cell – specifically to a pinpointed location within the nucleus. The researchers can then learn a lot about the physical conditions inside the nucleus by monitoring the quantum dots with a standard fluorescent microscope.

“This technique allows us to physically access the internal environment inside a cell,” Yu said. “It’s almost like a surgical tool that allows us to ‘operate’ inside the cell.”

The group coated a single nanotube, only 50 nanometers wide, with a very thin layer of gold, creating a nanoscale electrode probe. They then loaded the needle with quantum dots. A small electrical charge releases the quantum dots from the needle. This provides a level of control not achievable by other molecular delivery methods, which involve gradual diffusion throughout the cell and into the nucleus.

“Now we can use electrical potential to control the release of the molecules attached on the probe,” Yu said. “We can insert the nanoneedle in a specific location and wait for a specific point in a biologic process, and then release the quantum dots. Previous techniques cannot do that.”

Because the needle is so small, it can pierce a cell with minimal disruption, while other injection techniques can be very damaging to a cell. Researchers also can use this technique to accurately deliver the quantum dots to a very specific target to study activity in certain regions of the nucleus, or potentially other cellular organelles.

“Location is very important in cellular functions,” Wang said. “Using the nanoneedle approach you can get to a very specific location within the nucleus. That’s a key advantage of this method.”

The new technique opens up new avenues for study. The team hopes to continue to refine the nanoneedle, both as an electrode and as a molecular delivery system.

They hope to explore using the needle to deliver other types of molecules as well – DNA fragments, proteins, enzymes and others – that could be used to study a myriad of cellular processes.

“It’s an all-in-one tool,” Wang said. “There are three main types of processes in the cell: chemical, electrical, and mechanical. This has all three: It’s a mechanical probe, an electrode, and a chemical delivery system.”

The team’s findings will appear in the Oct. 4 edition of the journal Small. The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation supported this work.

Liz Ahlberg | University of Illinois
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>