Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Owing to their ability to efficiently deliver biological cargo and sense the intracellular milieu, vertical arrays of high aspect ratio nanostructures, known as nanoneedles, are being developed as minimally invasive tools for cell manipulation. However, little is known of the mechanisms of cargo transfer across the cell membrane-nanoneedle interface. In particular, the contributions of membrane piercing, modulation of membrane permeability and endocytosis to cargo transfer remain largely unexplored. Here, combining state-of-the-art electron and scanning ion conductance microscopy with molecular biology techniques, it is shown that porous silicon nanoneedle arrays concurrently stimulate independent endocytic pathways which contribute to enhanced biomolecule delivery into human mesenchymal stem cells. Electron microscopy of the cell membrane at nanoneedle sites shows an intact lipid bilayer, accompanied by an accumulation of clathrin-coated pits and caveolae. Nanoneedles enhance the internalization of biomolecular markers of endocytosis, highlighting the concurrent activation of caveolae- and clathrin-mediated endocytosis, alongside macropinocytosis. These events contribute to the nanoneedle-mediated delivery (nanoinjection) of nucleic acids into human stem cells, which distribute across the cytosol and the endolysosomal system. This data extends the understanding of how nanoneedles modulate biological processes to mediate interaction with the intracellular space, providing indications for the rational design of improved cell-manipulation technologies.

Original publication




Journal article


Adv Mater

Publication Date





biointerface, drug delivery, endocytosis, nanoneedles, porous silicon, Caveolae, Cell Membrane, Cell Membrane Permeability, Clathrin, Cytosol, Drug Delivery Systems, Endocytosis, Endosomes, Humans, Intracellular Space, Mesenchymal Stem Cells, Microscopy, Electron, Nanoparticles, Needles, Pinocytosis, Porosity, RNA, Small Interfering, Silicon, Surface Properties