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Nanoneedles, defined as high aspect ratio structures with tip diameters of 5 to approximately 500 nm, are uniquely able to interface with the interior of living cells. Their nanoscale dimensions mean that they are able to penetrate the plasma membrane with minimal disruption of normal cellular functions, allowing researchers to probe the intracellular space and deliver or extract material from individual cells. In the last decade, a variety of strategies have been developed using nanoneedles, either singly or as arrays, to investigate the biology of cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. These include hollow nanoneedles for soluble probe delivery, nanocapillaries for single-cell biopsy, nano-AFM for direct physical measurements of cytosolic proteins, and a wide range of fluorescent and electrochemical nanosensors for analyte detection. Nanofabrication has improved to the point that nanobiosensors can detect individual vesicles inside the cytoplasm, delineate tumor margins based on intracellular enzyme activity, and measure changes in cell metabolism almost in real time. While most of these applications are currently in the proof-of-concept stage, nanoneedle technology is poised to offer cancer biologists a powerful new set of tools for probing cells with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution.

Original publication





Publication Date





191 - 219


Cancer biomarker, Cell metabolism, Cytoskeleton, Dual carbon electrodes (DCE), Fluid force microscopy, Intracellular pH, Intracellular sensing, Mitochondria, Molecular beacons, Nanobiopsy, Nanocapillaries, Nanoelectrodes, Nanoneedles, Nanoparticles, Nanopipettes, Nanostraws, Nanowires, Reactive oxygen species (ROS), Redox probes, Scanning ion conductance microscopy (SICM), Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS), Cell Membrane, Cell Physiological Phenomena, Cytosol, Intracellular Space