Intracellular delivery is one of the most ubiquitous techniques in molecular biology. Current methods for delivery struggle to achieve high delivery efficiency and high cell viability simultaneously, and are often vary in effectiveness between cell types. Using VLSI technology, we have developed a platform for intracellular delivery using direct fluidic access to cells. Our system of supported nanotubes, called nanostraws, provides direct access to cellular cytosol and can be used to deliver biomolecules ranging from ionic species to gene-encoding DNA plasmids directly into cells, bypassing barriers posed by the cell membrane and endosomal degradation.
Using the nanostraw platform we are able to perform sequential delivieries to study real time molecular delivery in situ. We are studying the action of internal second messengers and signaling elements in cell signaling pathways such as apoptosis and Ca2+ signaling, as well as delivery of genetic material to transfection-averse cell types such as T-cells. We are also exploring the use of nanostraws as a live-cell labeling technique. In conjunction with our nanostraw delivery devices, we are modeling the biophysical nature of cell penetration by high aspect ratio nanostructures.