Revolutionary nano-needle can peer into a cellApril 29th, 2009 - 4:25 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, April 29 (IANS) A revolutionary nano-needle, developed by researchers, not only peers into individual cells, but also acts as electro-chemical probe and optical biosensor.
“Nano-needle-based delivery is a powerful new tool for studying biological processes and biophysical properties at the molecular level inside living cells,” said Min-Feng Yu, professor of mechanical science and study coauthor, University of Illinois (U of I).
Yu and associates described how nano-needles deliver, detect and track individual fluorescent quantum dots in a cell’s cytoplasm and nucleus. The quantum dots can be used for studying molecular mechanics and physical properties inside cells.
To create a nano-needle, the researchers begin with a rigid but resilient boron-nitride nanotube. The nanotube is then attached to one end of a glass pipette for easy handling, and coated with a thin layer of gold.
Molecular cargo is then attached to the gold surface via “linker” molecules. When placed in a cell’s cytoplasm or nucleus, the bonds with the linker molecules break, freeing the cargo.
With a diameter of approximately 50 nanometres, the nano-needle introduces minimal intrusiveness in penetrating cell membranes and accessing the interiors of live cells.
The delivery process can be precisely controlled, monitored and recorded - goals that have not been achieved in prior studies, said an U of I release.
“The nano-needle provides a mechanism by which we can quantitatively examine biological processes occurring within a cell’s nucleus or cytoplasm,” said Yang Xiang, professor of molecular and integrative physiology and co-author of the paper.
“By studying how individual proteins and molecules of DNA or RNA mobilise, we can better understand how the system functions as a whole,” he added.
The study is slated for publication in Nano Letters and is posted on the journal’s website.
Tags: biological processes, biophysical properties, boron nitride, cell membranes, chemical probe, cytoplasm, electro chemical, feng yu, glass pipette, gold surface, integrative physiology, mechanical science, molecular mechanics, nano letters, nucleus, optical biosensor, quantum dots, system functions, thin layer, yang xiang