Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 4 – 2008

Bianxiao Cui, Chemistry
Yi Cui, Materials Science & Engineering

We fabricated transparent vertical nanopillars that are pointing upward from the substrate like extremely small needles.  Interestingly, mammalian cells growing attached to the substrate do not seem to get harmed by those needles and even preferably grow on them.  With a diameter significantly smaller than the wavelength of visible light, the nanopillar functions as a highly-localized light source in live cells.  Like a tiny candle (nanocandle), the nanopillar selectively excites fluorescent molecules in its vicinity.  The nanocandle probe bridges nano-technology and cell biology to provide a unique platform to address intracellular events with high sensitivity and spatial resolution.

The complimentary expertise of the two groups involves are essential for the success of the proposed work.  The initial fabrication, characterization, and surface modification of the nanocandle were carried out in Dr. Yi Cui’s lab, while interfacing with mammalian cells, fluorescence imaging, and characterization of nanocandle-cell interface were carried out in Dr. Bianxiao Cui’s lab.  This work is a completely new research direction for both labs and the Bio-X IIP seeding grant is the essential drive that jumped start this collaborative effort.