Microbe Monopoly: Go Directly to Jail

Microbe Monopoly: Go Directly to Jail 

A Cell for a Cell: Using multiphoton lithography, scientists can now fabricate a 3D nanoscale isolation chamber around a single cell in just over a minute! Only 25 μm × 25 μm in length and breadth (or 0.00098 inch per side), and 10-12 μm in height, this prison cell is made of protein particles that can be photo-activated to set into a solid hydrogel. The prisoner is treated kindly, with breathable, bio-compatible windows built into the walls which allows the cell to feed and breed. Indeed, the scanning EM image on the extreme right shows the walls bulging with daughter cells that have divided and filled the chamber. Overcrowding of prisons seems to be an issue even in the cellular world, sigh .

Targeted Traps: While current methods allow single cells to be trapped on nanopatterned surfaces, selection is random. This new method allows specific cells, such as one with a particular phenotype (or appearance), to be captured and investigated. In another word, profiling. double sigh (Enough of anthropomorphism 🙂

Read More (and check out the video in the link): http://goo.gl/Y6I8K

#sciencesunday  

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50 Responses to Microbe Monopoly: Go Directly to Jail


  1. r u andhra Rajini Rao 

  2. Chad Haney says:


    Awesome interdisciplinary work.

  3. Chad Haney says:


    Harsha Vardhan what is andhra? Is that some kind of cell?

  4. Rajini Rao says:


    Agree, Chad Haney . It’s cool to see the “cell” bulging with cells! In the original paper (behind paywall), you can see it straining to contain fluorescently labelled bacteria or yeast.


  5. no its a state in india

  6. Rajini Rao says:


    Harsha Vardhan , I think the point that Chad Haney is making is that your question has no relevance to the topic of the post 🙂 If you must know, the answer is no.

  7. Chad Haney says:


    Maybe I’ll check the article later.


  8. ok fine Rajini Rao , i didnt go that much deep thiking by Chad Haney 

  9. Chad Haney says:


    Harsha Vardhan when you comment “hi how r u” or something like that, people will assume you are a RAJEEV. Search for that if you don’t know who/what that is. Rajini gets that a lot and her friends, try to ward them off.


  10. Incredible – this is the second “nano-engineering” type story that I’ve come across in the past few days (the other one was about the gene therapy for the human fat intolerance condition).  It sounds like we’re getting very close to real life nano scale activities, a very hopeful and scary time to be alive!

  11. Rajini Rao says:


    Not too scary, I hope Brian Wiens . If the method and goals are well defined, then is should be as useful as other innovations in science and technology. Cheers to that!


  12. Agreed.  The challenge with all advances like this, is the potential for  mis-use.  We seem to advance our science and engineering far faster than our mutual understanding of moral behaviour… and that is what scares me.  On balance, I’d rather be alive now than at any other time in history, but it’s still a scary time for us all.  Thanks for the great post Rajini Rao!

  13. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, Brian!  I’m here on Google+ to share my love of science and help demystify some small part of it. If more of us scientists were here, we could get the discussions up to speed with the technology.

  14. Mark Herndon says:


    Good deal isolate and exterminate!

  15. Rajini Rao says:


    The inventors had not considered extermination, but that is one application, I guess! (Or one could just irradiate it in place). More likely, it could be used to expand the single infectious cell so there’s more for purifying an antigen to make a vaccine, for example.


  16. Comment created as it was being answered! 🙂


    Actually Mark Herndon , if you read it, the “cell” is set up to allow the isolated cell to continue to live, and, in the study, grow to allow study in a controlled environment.  Rajini Rao , do you know if there is a use of isolate and exterminate as well?  I assume that the containment would simply be sealed…?


  17. Interesting. Thanks for sharing!


  18. Astonishing. Cellular biology will be taking huge strides forward thanks to technology on this scale.

  19. Rajini Rao says:


    Although one does not need to cage the cell in order to exterminate it (a laser beam should do the trick), it is possible that caging would keep the cell debris or other contaminants from contacting other cells, Brian Wiens . 

  20. Rajini Rao says:


    Good Sunday morning, Feisal Kamil ! Pancakes?


    Interesting idea! The prison keeps the cells in,  but allows vital molecules to diffuse in or out. So one could cordon off small clusters of healthy and cancer cells if it is not feasible to kill them all.

  21. Arnav Kalra says:


    Cool. Is there any application of this technology except research into the functioning of a particular cell?

  22. Rajini Rao says:


    Arnav Kalra , any suggestions? 🙂

  23. Arnav Kalra says:


    Rajini Rao Feisal Kamil what if we do the opposite. Take a few cells in an infected area and save them from bacterial infection. (can viruses go through this? )

  24. Rajini Rao says:


    Literally out of the box thinking, Arnav Kalra ! You can use the boxes to keep cells out, just as well as you would keep them in. It would keep out viruses too, since the protein walls are too tightly packed judging by the SEM image.

  25. Arnav Kalra says:


    Rajini Rao that would be nice. cough common cold cough will probably find it’s match now. I can’t judge the size by seeing an image.

  26. Rajini Rao says:


    Good ideas are not always practical, Arnav Kalra 😉


    There are a lot of viruses, and we can’t corral them all.

  27. Rajini Rao says:


    Yeah, I guessed ;( I had a hard time eating in Korea. People would insist, oh..that’s just a soy paste. After I’d put some in my mouth, they would add…with just a bit of shrimp. LOL.


    I like eating spicy noodley stuff in the morning…wakes my taste buds up!

  28. Arnav Kalra says:


    Rajini Rao how many?

  29. Rajini Rao says:


    Arnav Kalra , let’s calculate how many viruses can fit on a pinhead (this is a bonafide Google Search question!):


    “The number of viruses that can be fit on a pin head corresponds to the respective areas occupied by a pin head and a virus.


    Area (Virus) = πr^2 = π * (0.5 * 2 nm.)^2 = 3.14159 E-18 m.^2


    Area (Pinhead) = πr^2 = π * (0.5 * 1 mm.)^2 = 7.854 E-7 m.^2


    Number of Viruses that can fit on a pinhead = Area (Pinhead) / Area (Virus) =


    7.854 E-7 / 3.14159 E-18 =


    2.5 E11 or 250,000,000,000 or 250 Billion”


    What do you think? 🙂

  30. Arnav Kalra says:


    Whaaaaaa? Isn’t this a bit too much. When I sneeze I release trillions of them into the air.

  31. Billy Hung says:


    Rajini Rao We’ve been profiling cells since the days of cell sorter – you glow? You go to bin. You have 4 of 7 oncogenic gene alleles? You better have an alibi ready at all times buddy. 

  32. Rajini Rao says:


    Yes, I thought of FACS immediately too Billy Hung .


    But that separates cells by the thousands. Here, the advantage is that a truly rare specimen could be isolated and clonally expanded. I don’t know what the minimum sample number is for cell sorters, but it’s probably not single cell? Also, it is compatible with a microscope..so cells displaying a certain pattern of appearance could also be selected. Assuming one had this fancy 3D lithography technique, it would be pretty fast…a minute to isolate the cell. The rest could be washed off and the target cells eventually released from the cage. They make the point in the paper that alternative methods would involve micromanipulation (such as lifting cells using a micro-manipulated tweezer).

  33. Billy Hung says:


    Rajini Rao Things are going to get even more interesting once they can do different types of prisons, like a see-through prison, or a prison with bars wide enough to gate entrance/exit of some molecules but not others, or ion cage type prisons, etc. 

  34. Rajini Kumar says:


    Ooh, Cell in a Cell! Thanks for sharing Rajini Rao  🙂

  35. Rajini Rao says:


    Fun, is it not Rajini Kumar 😀


    Sometimes, its more than the science, it’s the double entendre and all the word play. 

  36. Rajini Kumar says:


    Science is fun. This technique seems to have lots of potential. I’m waiting to see how it develops into a commercial product, if it ever does. Rajini Rao 

  37. Rajini Rao says:


    3D printing is taking off in leaps and bounds. Here, they are using protein to build nanostructures, which opens new possibilities too. Things can bind quite specifically to proteins 🙂

  38. Jay Wagh says:


    this technique can also be used to fabricate scaffolds, from SEM image it looks like the prisoners are adopting to the prison shape , its really fascinating 😀 . By the way did they perform lithography on a substrate with cell culture already on it ? I mean is it possible to perform lithography in presence of living cells on the substrate? besides cells should remain stable for a minute until they finish prison construction, really challenging !

  39. Rajini Rao says:


    Yes, they did Jay Wagh . The prison cell was etched right on the culture plate, and the cells continue to grow before, during and after the process. The only viability problem they encountered was that a significant number of trapped cells died..they think this has to do with accumulation of waste, such as reactive oxygen species, inside the prison cell. They could make the walls more permeable or perhaps put a chimney in the roof? 🙂

  40. Ram Sew says:


    Reading book of


    Depak Chopra Biocentrism, does death exsist,?.expl by Robert Lanza, MD please explain???

  41. Rajini Rao says:


    I don’t read books by Deepak Chopra, Ram Sew . Neither should you 😉

  42. Ram Sew says:


    Thank you,but why???

  43. Rajini Rao says:


    Sure, Ram Sew .


    Start with the second to last reason on this awesome list that is making the rounds today: http://goo.gl/bD5Ac


    Then read the comments to the linked post.


    Stick with real science, not some hocus pocus peddled by a feel good guru.

  44. Ram Sew says:


    Thank you Rajni ji,i will read it thnkx

  45. Rajini Rao says:


    Haha, thanks for the reminder! It is hilarious 😀


  46. Wow!   Thanks for the… arresting account Rajini Rao 

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