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Single-cell transfection tool enables added control for biological studies
Date:5/21/2013

Northwestern University researchers have developed a new method for delivering molecules into single, targeted cells through temporary holes in the cell surface. The technique could find applications in drug delivery, cell therapy, and related biological fields.

Bulk electroporation a technique used to deliver molecules into cells through reversible nanopores in the cell membrane that are caused by exposing them to electric pulses is an increasingly popular method of cell transfection. (Cell transfection is the introduction of molecules, such as nucleic acids or proteins, into a cell to change its properties.)

However, because bulk electroporation applies electric pulses to a bulk cell solution, it results in heterogeneous cell populations and often low cell viability. To solve these problems, Northwestern University researchers have developed a novel tool for single-cell transfection.

The new method, called nanofountain probe electroporation (NFP-E), allows researchers to deliver molecules into targeted cells through temporary nanopores in the cell membrane created by a localized electric field applied to a small portion of the cell. The method enables researchers to control dosage by varying the duration of the electric pulses, which provides unprecedented control of cell transfection.

"This is really exciting," said Horacio Espinosa, James and Nancy Farley Professor of Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and one of the paper's authors. "The ability to precisely deliver molecules into single cells is needed for biotechnology researchers to advance the state-of-the-art in therapeutics, diagnostics, and drug delivery toward the promise of personalized medicine."

A paper describing the research, "Nanofountain Probe Electroporation (NFP-E) of Single Cells," was published May 7 in the journal Nano Letters.

NFP-E is based on nanofountain probe (NFP) tech
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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