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3D nanostructures for biosensing in living tissues

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The ability to interact with neuronal cells and to monitor their status plays a pivotal role in neuroscience, pharmacology and cell biology. Despite the efforts of a very large community, progresses in this field remain slow because of a dense multi-scale dynamics involving signaling at the molecular, cellular and large network levels. Therefore, observing cell signaling within large networks is a major challenge that can revolutionize our capability of studying the brain and its physio-pathological functions, as well as of deriving bio-inspired concepts to implement artificial systems based on neuronal circuits.

In the last years, we deeply investigated both theoretically and experimentally the interactions of 3D nanostructured sensors with living cells such as human neurons and cardiomyocytes [1]. The aim is to make an effective interface between living tissues and different classes of nano-sensors hence enabling multiscale and multivariable observation of cell dynamics. In particular, we developed a method for opening transient nanopores into the cell membrane that is in close proximity with the nanosensor (see figure). After the membrane poration the tip of the sensor is in direct contact with the intracellular compartment thus enabling intracellular investigations which include Raman traces of biomolecules [2], electrical recording of action potentials of human neurons and cardiomyocytes [3], and controlled delivery of single nanoparticles into selected cells [4]. We demonstrated the possibility of non-invasively testing the effect of relevant drugs on human cells with particular regards to cardio- toxicity, that is a fundamental step before the clinical trials. Due to its robustness and ease of use, we expect the method will be rapidly adopted by the scientific community and by pharmaceutical companies. In fact, the field suffers the lack of reliable approaches for pharmacological screening of drugs devoted to the central nervous system.

Also, we will take this opportunity to give a short overview of different types of optical and plasmonic biosensors we are currently developing. The latter includes single molecule Raman Sensors, DNA detection, and Protein sequencing.

This talk is part of the Materials Chemistry Research Interest Group series.

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