"Characterization of the Cell–Nanopillar Interface by Transmission Electron Microscopy"

Lindsey Hanson: Ziliang Carter Lin, Chong Xie, Yi Cui, and Bianxiao Cui ; Nano Letters, 10/03/12.

Additional Authors: Ziliang Carter Lin, Chong Xie, Yi Cui, and Bianxiao Cui


Vertically aligned nanopillars can serve as excellent electrical, optical and mechanical platforms for biological studies. However, revealing the nature of the interface between the cell and the nanopillar is very challenging. In particular, a matter of debate is whether the cell membrane remains intact around the nanopillar. Here we present a detailed characterization of the cell-nanopillar interface by transmission electron microscopy. We examined cortical neurons growing on nanopillars with diameter 50–500 nm and heights 0.5–2 μm. We found that on nanopillars less than 300 nm in diameter, the cell membrane wraps around the entirety of the nanopillar without the nanopillar penetrating into the interior of the cell. On the other hand, the cell sits on top of arrays of larger, closely spaced nanopillars. We also observed that the membrane-surface gap of both cell bodies and neurites is smaller for nanopillars than for a flat substrate. These results support a tight interaction between the cell membrane and the nanopillars and previous findings of excellent sealing in electrophysiology recordings using nanopillar electrodes.