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June 20th, 2007
In order to investigate the processes that go on inside a single human cell—or even specific subcellular compartments—researchers need a device that is small and controlled enough to pass through the delicate cell membrane. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs), with their needle-like geometry, high elasticity and strength, have recently shown that they're up to the task.
Scientists Xing Chen, Andrax Kis, Alex Zettl, and Carolyn Bertozzi from the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have recently found that a CNT-based "nanoinjector" is also the first to penetrate a cell with no membrane damage, even after hour-long, repeated use. Previous bulkier methods consistently damaged the membrane after just a few seconds of penetration.
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