Cancer chemotherapy drugs can have horrible side-effects as they unavoidably impact upon the growth of healthy skin, hair and blood cells. Delivering drugs specifically into cancerous cells is challenging given their microscopic scale. This HeLa cervical cancer cell, grown in the lab with its membrane dyed green, measures only 1/125 of a centimetre across. A microscopic needle called a nanowire has been pushed through the cell’s outer membrane to inject a fluorescent microdot (emitting red light) into the cell. It is hoped that this approach could be adapted to selectively deliver chemicals straight into the heart of tumour cells in the human body. Similar nanowires attached to optical fibres can carry light into specific areas of a single cell, allowing further investigation into the chemistry, biology and physics of cellular life.
Written by John Ankers
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (the new name for the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre) the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.