Materials Science

Rupturing cells gently with a spiky membrane

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Science  06 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6188, pp. 1129
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6188.1129-e

Ultrasharp silicon nanospikes for efficiently shredding cells.

PHOTO: H. SO ET AL., ACS APPLIED MATERIALS AND INTERFACES 6, 10 (7 MAY 2014) © AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY

Researchers need to rupture cells before they can analyze the proteins and nucleic acids inside, but they should do it as gently as possible. So et al. decorated silicon membranes with hierarchical layers of pointy spikes, using a single-step etching process. When they attached the membrane to the end of a syringe as part of a filter holder, the cells ruptured as the syringe pushed them past the membrane.

Compared to other techniques for breaking cells open, such as those based on chemical or acoustic methods, the spiky-membrane method provides higher concentrations of proteins and nucleic acids in a shorter time. Another plus: The membrane collects the debris from the cell, giving a cleaner solution.

ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 10.1021/am501221b (2014).

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