Silica nanowires have great potential for usage in the development of highly sensitive in vivo biosensors used for biomarker monitoring. However, careful analysis of nanowire toxicity is required prior to placing these sensors within the human body. This paper describes a real-time and quantitative analysis of nanowire cytotoxicity using impedance spectroscopy; improving upon studies that have utilized traditional endpoint assays. Silica nanowires were grown using the vapor liquid solid (VLS) method, mixed with Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium (DMEM) and exposed to Hs578T epithelial breast cancer cells at concentrations of 0 μg ml(-1), 1 μg ml(-1), 50 μg ml(-1) and 100 μg ml(-1). Real-time cellular responses to silica nanowires confirm that while not cytotoxic, silica nanowires at high concentrations (≥50 μg ml(-1)) are toxic to cells, and also suggest that cell death is due to mechanical disturbances of high numbers of nanowires.