January 13, 2010
Nanowires Poke Molecules Into Cells

Nanowires can deliver drugs and other compounds into cells grown in culture

Many experiments in biology rely on manipulating cells: adding a gene, protein, or other molecule, for instance, to study its effects on the cell. But getting a molecule into a cell is much like breaking into a fortress; it often relies on biological tricks such as infecting a cell with a virus or attaching a protein to another one that will sneak it through the cell's membrane. Many of these methods are specific to certain types of cells and only work with specific molecules. A paper in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers a surprisingly simple and direct alternative: using nanowires as needles to poke molecules into cells.

This involves growing cells on a bed of nanowires. The nanowires can poke into the cells and then release molecules once they are inside. This will enable rapid screening of how many different kinds of molecules affect the behavior of cells.

I can imagine something like these nanowires used to deliver gene therapy into cells. We still need better ways to deliver gene therapy. While this technique might help with gene therapy in vitro it does not appear to provide a better way to deliver genes into cells in the body (i.e. in vivo). We need great in vivo gene therapy delivery mechanisms especially in order to rejuvenate the brain. Gotta deliver new genetic programming into old cells that hold the memories and skills accumulation of our lives.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 January 13 10:31 PM  Biotech Manipulations


Comments
Lou Pagnucco said at January 13, 2010 10:48 PM:

Another interesting drug delivery method is also described in the current PNAS edition:

Lipid-like materials for low-dose, in vivo gene silencing
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/01/06/0910603106.full.pdf+html

It descibes what may turn out to be a highly efficient way to deliver small interfering RNAs (siRNA) to turn off targeted genes in targeted tissues.

Hopefully, it will be years rather than decades before these technologies emerge from labs.

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