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Lasers quickly load thousands of cells with nano-sized cargo


Doctors dream of injecting cells with large nanoscopic cargo to treat or study illnesses. The existing approach to this is extremely slow, however. At one cell per minute, it would take ages to get a meaningful payload. That won't be a problem if UCLA scientists have their way, though -- they've developed a technique that uses lasers to inject legions of cells at a time. The concentrated light heats up the titanium coating on a chip until it boils water surrounding the target cells, creating fissures that let the cargo inside. It only takes 10 seconds for the laser to process an entire chip's worth of cells, and researchers estimate that they could fill a whopping 100,000 cells per minute.

That newfound scale should allow for studies that weren't possible before. UCLA imagines stuffing cells with mitochondria (the "powerplant" of a cell) to see how mutant genes trigger diseases, and it could also bring antibodies and nanoparticles that fight whatever's ailing you. It's going to be a long time before you can expect to receive injected cells when you're in the hospital, but it's at least a practical idea.

[Image credit: Eric Pei-Yu Chiou, UCLA]

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