New Technion micromachine to introduce DNA, drugs into specific cells

Electroporation is a technique seen in microbiology where an electrical field is applied to cells in order to increase the membrane's permeability, allowing drugs, DNA or chemicals to be introduced.

Schematic illustration of selective bacteria trapping, transport and electroporation (red fluorescence) using a Janus particle as a mobile microelectrode and an applied electric field are shown. (photo credit: TECHNION)
Schematic illustration of selective bacteria trapping, transport and electroporation (red fluorescence) using a Janus particle as a mobile microelectrode and an applied electric field are shown.
(photo credit: TECHNION)
A new study from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has enabled self-propelling micromachines to directly deliver drugs, DNA and chemicals through electroporation into specific single cells.
The research, conducted by Prof. Gilad Yossifon and Dr. Yue Wu of the Technion Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Dr. Afu Fu of the Faculty of Medicine, was published in the journal Science Advances.
Prof. Gilad Yossifon (Credit: Technion)Prof. Gilad Yossifon (Credit: Technion)
Electroporation is a microbiology technique in which an electrical field is applied to cells to increase the membrane’s permeability, allowing drugs, DNA or chemicals to be introduced. The technique is frequently used to introduce DNA into bacteria cells.
Currently, this technique can only be applied to numerous cells at once, rather than targeting a single specific cell. However, Yossifon’s micromachine is able to do exactly that.
Micromachines, also known as “active particles” and “micro-motors,” are becoming more viable as a micro and nanoscale tool for single-cell analysis. These machines can be used as a means of single-cell-based diagnosis of diseases and as a platform for testing cell therapies.
“We successfully demonstrated, for the first time, that an external electric field can singularly trap and transport bacteria and selectively electroporate the trapped bacteria,” Yossifon said in a Technion press release.
Their approach is generic and is applicable to a wide range of cell types and micromachine designs, as well as to bacteria and metallodielectric Janus particles (where one hemisphere is conducting and the other dielectric).
Whereas previous micromachines are comparatively clunky and cumbersome, this new micromachine is multifunctional and can perform minimally invasive electroporations on several targeted cells in parallel. Its portable and efficient compared to the other models and is able to overcome obstacles such as complexity and predetermined design.
Following the success of the micromachine on single-cell bacteria, Yossifon plans on expanding his research into mammalian cells.