Scientists develop nanotube that can penetrate a cell

Investigating the composition and behavior of microscale environments, including those within living cells, could become easier and more precise with nanoelectrodes being developed at the University of Illinois. "The individual nanotube-based probes can be used for electrochemical and biochemical sensing," said Min-Feng Yu, a U. of I. professor of mechanical science and engineering, and a researcher at the university's Beckman Institute. "The position of the nanoelectrodes can be controlled very accurately."

Because the nanotube is attached to a much larger probe, the researchers can manipulate the nanotube like a needle. They can control precisely where the nanotube penetrates a cell, for example, and even pinpoint smaller cell structures, such as the nucleus or mitochondrion. The researchers have demonstrated that their nanoelectrode can sense the chemical environment within a droplet 10 microns in diameter. Their next step is to show that the probe can penetrate the cellular membrane of a living cell, without damaging the cell.

- read the report on their work