Injecting large molecules and even bacteria into the interior of mammalian cells has been a slow process. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), have developed a device that can inject 100,000 cells per minute while conventional methods take one minute to inject one cell.
Biophotonic laser-assisted surgery tool (BLAST) uses a silicon chip that has many tiny holes. The cells are positioned on the chip and a laser is used to heat the titanium coating of the chip. The liquid below the holes bubble and propel into the cell membrane, causing a small rupture. This happens in a tiny fraction of a second, letting particles within the liquid below the holes to enter the cells.
Inserting large cargo into cells could lead to more research opportunities that was previously not possible. For example, researchers can study diseases caused by mutant mitochondrial DNA by injecting into mitochondria and altering its metabolism.
It also could help scientists understand the cell's defense mechanisms against pathogens. "The new information learned from these types of studies could assist in identifying pathogen targets for drug development, or provide fundamental insight on how the pathogen-host interaction enables a productive infection or effective cellular response to occur," said Dr. Michael Teitell, chief of the division of pediatric and developmental pathology.