Nanowire-based endoscopy has attracted interest due to its ability to manipulate cells at the single-cell level with minimal cellular perturbation. High-density, vertically aligned nanowire arrays have been used as an efficient gene delivery system. Despite the high transfection rates, culturing the cells on nanowire arrays might have other influences on the cellular behaviour. For example, stem cells cultured on silicon nanowires show significantly different adhesion, proliferation and differentiation, compared with flat silicon or other control substrates. Furthermore, such arrays are not location-specific and require optimization of the nanowire density and dimension for the different the cell types. In collaboration with the group of Prof. Hiroshi Uji-i we are developing a method to delivery genetic material using a single nanowire. In contrast to the existing methods, this approach can be applied to any cell type and is extremely specific: it can target a single cell and it can deliver the genetic material exactly at the desired position, such as inside of the nucleus, with no damage to the cell. Since gene editing is a stochastic event occurring in only a fraction of the cells, the transfer of genetic material (or proteins) is of crucial importance in genome editing methods, where the nucleases must be efficiently delivered. The duration and magnitude of the nuclease expression are critical parameters for the level of both on-target and off-target nuclease activity. Additionally, the dose of donor template DNA is important to ensure efficient homologous recombination. The proposed method offers the possibility to deliver different molecules at different times, in synchronization with the cell cycle. The lab of Prof. Uji-i is one of the first (and few) groups worldwide to have developed and optimized a novel nanoscopic technique using 1D nanowires, with a diameter of less than 100 nm, for SERS endoscopic studies. It has been already proven by us that the thin diameter and 1D structure of the NW greatly reduces the damage induced to a live cell during probe insertion. Although designed for a different purpose, this nanoprobe is ideal as a starting point to develop a new NW-based gene delivery system.
The proposed protocol of NW-based transfection is depicted in the Figure. Plasmid DNA (pDNA) molecules need to be loaded onto a nanowire probe prior to the insertion into a single cell. After a while, the genetic material needs to be released for transfection. In order to realize this, we are developing (i) a reproducible method to load genetic material on a single nanowire and (ii) single cell tracking microscopy in order to evaluate the transfection efficiency.
For more information on the nanowire-based endoscopy:
- Lu G., et al. (2014) Live‐Cell SERS Endoscopy Using Plasmonic Nanowire Waveguides, Advanced Materials, 26(30), pages 5124-5128 (article can be found here)