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Porous Silicon Nanoneedles Modulate Endocytosis to Deliver Biological Payloads

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Sahana Gopal, Ciro Chiappini, Jelle Penders, Vincent Leonardo, Hyejeong Seong, Stephen Rothery, Yuri Korchev, Andrew Shevchuk, Molly M. Stevens

Original languageEnglish
Article number1806788
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number12
Early online date24 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2019


King's Authors


Owing to their ability to efficiently deliver biological cargo and sense the intracellular milieu, vertical arrays of high aspect ratio nanostructures, known as nanoneedles, are being developed as minimally invasive tools for cell manipulation. However, little is known of the mechanisms of cargo transfer across the cell membrane-nanoneedle interface. In particular, the contributions of membrane piercing, modulation of membrane permeability and endocytosis to cargo transfer remain largely unexplored. Here, combining state-of-the-art electron and scanning ion conductance microscopy with molecular biology techniques, it is shown that porous silicon nanoneedle arrays concurrently stimulate independent endocytic pathways which contribute to enhanced biomolecule delivery into human mesenchymal stem cells. Electron microscopy of the cell membrane at nanoneedle sites shows an intact lipid bilayer, accompanied by an accumulation of clathrin-coated pits and caveolae. Nanoneedles enhance the internalization of biomolecular markers of endocytosis, highlighting the concurrent activation of caveolae- and clathrin-mediated endocytosis, alongside macropinocytosis. These events contribute to the nanoneedle-mediated delivery (nanoinjection) of nucleic acids into human stem cells, which distribute across the cytosol and the endolysosomal system. This data extends the understanding of how nanoneedles modulate biological processes to mediate interaction with the intracellular space, providing indications for the rational design of improved cell-manipulation technologies.

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