Nanowire-based single-cell endoscopy

Ruoxue Yan, Ji Ho Park, Yeonho Choi, Chul Joon Heo, Seung Man Yang, Luke P. Lee, Peidong Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

286 Scopus citations


One-dimensional smart probes based on nanowires and nanotubes that can safely penetrate the plasma membrane and enter biological cells are potentially useful in high-resolution and high-throughput gene and drug delivery, biosensing and single-cell electrophysiology. However, using such probes for optical communication across the cellular membrane at the subwavelength level remains limited. Here, we show that a nanowire waveguide attached to the tapered tip of an optical fibre can guide visible light into intracellular compartments of a living mammalian cell, and can also detect optical signals from subcellular regions with high spatial resolution. Furthermore, we show that through light-activated mechanisms the endoscope can deliver payloads into cells with spatial and temporal specificity. Moreover, insertion of the endoscope into cells and illumination of the guided laser did not induce any significant toxicity in the cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-196
Number of pages6
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant no. R21 EB007474-03) and Department of Energy (contract no. DE-AC02-05CH11231). The authors thank Z. Huo for transmission electron microscope observations, D. Sirbuly for the nanowire endoscope bending video, H.E. Jeong, J.W. Lee and Q. Pan for cell culturing, and Q. Pan and S. Gweon for discussions. P.Y. thanks the National Science Foundation for the A. T. Waterman Award.


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