The Smallest Way

The cell is the building block of our living systems. Being the basis of all living systems, the cell research has been of great interest for many centuries. Recently the focus of this research centres around in achieving the task of introducing substances into the living which has great implications in therapeutic, diagnostics and diseases analysis purposes. Moreover, if this task could be achieved, it could also help to analyze and cure cancer.

Till now, there has not been a successful model to cause target cell disruption or studies because of several reasons. These methods are usually unsafe for humans. They are also bulk methods and unable to target a single cell. Besides that such methods are toxic too.

Electroporation on the other hand, has lots of advantages. It is faster and more efficient, easier to handle, with less toxicity, and has sufficient electrical parameters to improve the target efficiency and cell viability.

But there are problems with electroporation as well. Electroporation can only be done as bulk electroporation. High voltage is required and the sample gets contaminated. Due to the heat, toxicity is caused.

In the last two decades, the advancements in micro/nanotechnology have been achieved tremendously. Micro or Nano is the basic size of a cell or sub-cell level. Modern micro/nanofluidic devices have made the task to enter exogeneous (meaning external or outside) materials into cell or a group of cells easier.  

Thus, the scientists in this team that include Professor Tuhin Subhra Santra, Dr. Srabani Kar, Prof. Fan-Gang Tseng, and Prof. Hwan-You Chang have developed a ‘Nano-localized single-cell nano-electroporation’ device to introduce material into a cell or a group of selected cells and disrupt the cells, such as cancer cells and their analysis. This device uses electrodes and other materials all at the nano level.

Cells are usually at a micro level in size. ‘Nano’ is a thousand times smaller than ‘Micro’. So, the device can be used easily and with more space for cellular analysis.

The experiment was quite successful. A very low voltage was required to deform the cell and the single-cell was targeted efficiently. The materials were also delivered successfully to the specific cells. The device was used to deliver cell-impermeable dyes, quantum dots, and plasmids into different cancer cells with high delivery efficiency and high cell viability. These dyes, quantum dots, and plasmids were delivered into the cell in order to study the cell membrane and disrupt them.

This device developed by the research team at IIT Madras can be used for further studies of different cell lines and for more accurate drug delivery and other advancements.

Based on the above experiment, Professor Moeto Nagai, Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan says, “Nano-electrodes improve the performance of electroporation. Tuhin Santra et al. created pairs of indium tin oxide (ITO) nano-electrodesdes with a gap of 70 nm and demonstrated localized single-cell nano-electroporation. They provide a spatial and temporal dosage control technique and achieved intracellular delivery at high transfection efficiency (more than 96%) and high cell viability (approximately 98%). These values are much better than those of electroporation at large sizes.”

What Professor Moeto Nagai implies is that the use of nano-electrodes for intracellular delivery is more successful when compared to other methods used for intracellular delivery.

Article by Akshay Anantharaman
Here is the link to the research article:!divAbstract


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