It's a problem as old as Schrodinger's cat--how to observe phenomena on a tiny scale without the act of observation itself having an impact on the subject. You don't even need to get into the craziness of quantum physics for this to be a problem when it comes to delivering medication using a microneedle into a single cell. Poke a hole in the cell to delivery the goods or detect disease, and you've created new problems. Two old standbys of the nanotech world offer possible ways out of this box: The carbon nanotube and the quantum dot.
Drexel University in Philadelphia tells us about professors Yury Gogotsi and Gary Friedman, who use a nanotube-based device, known as a cellular endoscope, to evaluate cells and deliver fluorescent quantum dots all without the cells even knowing they're being probed. "Endoscopes provide a potentially transformative technology for studying the fundamentals of single living cells and more broadly, for cell biology," Gogotsi says in a prepared statement.
Friedman explains how it's done: "We had an idea for a minimally invasive cellular probe, the tip of which could remain within the cell for a long time while reporting important information in the form of optical and electrical signals and transferring tiny amounts of material to and from the cell. This probe is similar to an endoscope employed by doctors to perform minimally invasive operations inside human patients, only much smaller" says Friedman.
More on the probe can be found in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, titled ""Multifunctional carbon-nanotube cellular endoscopes."
- read the Drexel University release
- and check out the abstract in Nature Nanotechnology