Stimulating cells by light is an attractive technology to investigate cellular function and deliver innovative cell-based therapy. However, current techniques generally use poorly biopermeable light, which prevents broad applicability. In a new study, researchers at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan and Institut de Physique et Chimie des Matériaux de Strasbourg (IPCMS) in France have shown that they can develop a new tool box for simple cell stimulation using laser light and a magnet.

They produce a nanoscale stimulator from multi-walled carbon nanotubes, magnetic iron nanoparticles, and polyglycerol. This multicomponent nanohybrid allows photothermal and mechanical control of calcium ion influx into genetically engineered cells overexpressing transient receptor potential vanilloid type-2. The nanohybrid is simply operated by application of highly biotransparent near-infrared light and a magnetic field. The technology may revolutionize remote control of cellular function.

The researchers published their work in the journal Nanotechnology 27 475102.