A new virus-sized probe can look deeper into cells than ever before, and finally allows scientists to monitor intracellular activities without disrupting the cells' external membranes, according to a study published today in Science.
Nano-size transistor penetrates
cell membrane

Image: Charles Lieber
"This is a paper that can bring breakthrough and revolutionary insight into our understanding of intracellular structures," said linkurl:Zhong Lin Wang,;http://www.nanoscience.gatech.edu/zlwang/ who develops nanotechnologies at the Georgia Institute of Technology but was not involved in the work. The new device is a type of sensor known as a transistor, which detects changes in electrical activity when touching or inserted into a cell. It differs from previous cellular-sized transistors in its unique three-dimensional shape and its tiny size -- smaller than a cell's own microtubules. Additionally, the new probe is coated with a lipid bilayer, which merges with the cell's membrane to allow the tip to penetrate into...
Diagram of nanoprobe in cell
Image: Charles Lieber
Bozhi Tian, et al., "Three-dimensional, flexible nanoscale field-effect transistors as localized bioprobes," Science, 329: 830-4, 2010.

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