Electroactive nanoinjection platform for intracellular delivery and gene silencing

Nanoinjection—the process of intracellular delivery using vertically configured nanostructures—is a physical route that efficiently negotiates the plasma membrane, with minimal perturbation and toxicity to the cells. Nanoinjection, as a physical membrane-disruption-mediated approach, overcomes challenges associated with conventional carrier-mediated approaches such as safety issues (with viral carriers), genotoxicity, limited packaging capacity, low levels of endosomal escape, and poor versatility for cell and cargo types. Yet, despite the implementation of nanoinjection tools and their assisted analogues in diverse cellular manipulations, there are still substantial challenges in harnessing these platforms to gain access into cell interiors with much greater precision without damaging the cell’s intricate structure. Here, we propose a non-viral, low-voltage, and reusable electroactive nanoinjection (ENI) platform based on vertically configured conductive nanotubes (NTs) that allows for rapid influx of targeted biomolecular cargos into the intracellular environment, and for successful gene silencing. The localization of electric fields at the tight interface between conductive NTs and the cell membrane drastically lowers the voltage required for cargo delivery into the cells, from kilovolts (for bulk electroporation) to only ≤ 10 V; this enhances the fine control over membrane disruption and mitigates the problem of high cell mortality experienced by conventional electroporation.