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Biotech Earth Science Hardware Technology

Human Cells Naturally 'Eat' Silicon Nanowires (ieee.org) 42

the_newsbeagle writes: By showing that human cells naturally engulf minuscule silicon nanowires, a material scientist from the University of Chicago has opened the way to intracellular electronics. Applications could include very specialized drug delivery, electrically stimulating the organelles inside the cell, or recording the signals that pass between those internal structures. From IEEE Spectrum: "Using both an electron microscope and a specialized optical imaging tool designed by the team, the group recorded the eating of the nanowires in detail. It appears that the cell's outer membrane folds itself like a pocket, grabs the nanowire, and envelops it in a membrane-lined bubble. The process is called phagocytosis; it's the same method used by immune cells to grab a bit of bacteria and swallow it up. Once the nanowire is inside, the cell's machinery then shuttles it through its system with sudden bursts of speed -- up to 99.4 nanometers per second -- and deposits it just outside the cell's nucleus. Tian's group made a video of the process (complete with melodramatic accompaniment)."
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Human Cells Naturally 'Eat' Silicon Nanowires

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  • the cell's machinery then shuttles it through its system with sudden bursts of speed -- up to 99.4 nanometers per second

    Don't let the Street Outlaw 405 gang know about this, they'll be absolutely green with jealousy!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    god IEEE... ALL KINDS of security warnings...

    No wonder the ACM is better (>_>)

  • by ArylAkamov ( 4036877 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @09:48PM (#53527377)

    I can't be the only one who read the summary as "A mad scientist from the University of Chicago"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    XKCD https://xkcd.com/644/

  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @10:07PM (#53527459) Homepage Journal

    I seem to once remember hearing another example of nanostructures finding their way into cells easily, and it didn't go well for the cell, in the longer run. I certainly hope they're doing extended life testing with this.

    • by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @07:10AM (#53528683)

      I seem to once remember hearing another example of nanostructures finding their way into cells easily, and it didn't go well for the cell, in the longer run. I certainly hope they're doing extended life testing with this.

      Most nano-particles don't transfect into cells (go actively into the cytoplasm itself). Generally, if there is cellular uptake, the nano-particles end up "in jail," trapped inside endosomes, and not actively in the cell's guts proper.

      There are some materials that make for nice, rounded and non-cytotoxic nano-particles that can be functionalized and transfected into the cytoplasm. Such materials are the "Holy Grails" of drug delivery, cancer treatment, and diagnostics. I work on one of them...

  • Active skillsofts? Could these nanowires pick up tuned transmissions and further interact on a cellular level? Perhaps even figuring out how to make them so their only absorbed into specific types of cells...
  • Just like fish and sea mammals and birds eat 'naturally' the tiny pieces of plastic in the ocean.

  • Problem? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bytesex ( 112972 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @05:12AM (#53528467) Homepage

    They swallow them, but they don't break them down, which means that when the cell dies (which it will), the material goes on a second journey and so on.

    • They swallow them, but they don't break them down, which means that when the cell dies (which it will), the material goes on a second journey and so on.

      Maybe, and maybe not. Dead cells' guts leave the body through the lymph system, among other routes. I don't think that the lymph ducts have an activee endothelial layer that will lead to up-take of rods from an apoptosed cell.

      It is a good question to ask, and to consider. (Any biochemists out there that can shed some light on this?)

  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Wednesday December 21, 2016 @08:09AM (#53528751)

    Human cells also gobble up asbestos fibres, if I remember correctly. I would be interested in knowing what studies are being made to check out potential negative consequences - as well as, of course, what this research promisis.

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