Aug 20, 2014
Reviewing the prospects of nanostructures in biological research
High-aspect-ratio nanostructures are envisioned to become an important future tool in fundamental research and drug discovery. These nanostructures are comparable to the size of a cell in length, but about 100–1000 times smaller in diameter. As such, they should be long enough to reach deep into a cell while being thin enough to do so without causing damage. Now, reporting in Nanotechnology, a community of interdisciplinary scientists has published the first comprehensive review of this emerging research area. Results are compiled and contrasted to confirm the great potential of nanostructures in biological research.
High-aspect-ratio nanostructures can be used to both modify and measure cell responses. As outlined in the review article, these nanostructures are generally envisaged along four lines of potential application: molecule delivery, cell diagnostics, electrophysiology and cell guidance.
Reaching a bottleneck
Important advances have been made for each of these and conversion from potential into real-life applications is a task heavily pursued. A current bottleneck is that many of these applications require the nanostructures to have direct access into the cell. However, if, when and how the nanostructures achieve this access remains to be completely understood.
Over the past few years the research area has experienced a surge in activity. This has, as pointed out in the review article, resulted in a large number of important publications. Each has unique experimental conditions, such as nanostructure material and dimensions, cell types, as well as the assays and readouts that the results are based on.
Vertical nanostructures are envisioned to be applicable for molecule delivery (a), cell diagnostics (b), electrophysiology (c) and cell guidance (d)
Furthermore, cells have been interfaced with nanostructures using different methods, which have resulted in a variety of cellular responses in terms of adhesion, morphology, viability, proliferation and migration. To understand and harness these responses will be important for the further development of nanostructures for cellular applications.
This first review encapsulates the results for scientists both within and outside the field, and distinguishes general trends among the many publications in this very promising research area.
More information can be found in the journal Nanotechnology 25 362001.
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Cheap and replicable nano-pillar arrays (June 2014)
Carbon nanopipettes for automated injection (May 2014)
Silicon nanowires decorated with silver and copper nanoparticles make efficient bactericides (Oct 2013)
About the author
This review was completed by an interdisciplinary community of scientists from the Bionanotechnology and Nanomedicine Laboratory at the University of Copenhagen.