Many bioactive molecules have intracellular targets, but have difficulty crossing the cell membrane to reach those targets. To address this difficulty, we fabricated arrays of nanoneedles to gently and simultaneously puncture 10(5) cells and thereby provide transient pathways for transport of molecules into the cells. The nanoneedles were microfabricated by etching silicon to create arrays of nanoneedles measuring 12 μm in height, tapering to a sharp tip less than 30 nm wide to facilitate puncture into cells and spaced 10 μm apart in order to have at least one nanoneedle puncture each cell in a confluent monolayer. These nanoneedles were used for intracellular delivery in two ways: puncture loading, in which nanoneedle arrays were pressed into cell monolayers, and centrifuge loading, in which cells in suspension were spun down onto nanoneedle arrays. The effects on intracellular uptake and cell viability were determined as a function of nanoneedle length and sharpness, puncture force and duration, and molecular weight of the molecule delivered. Under optimal conditions, intracellular uptake was seen in approximately 50 % of cells while maintaining high cell viability. Overall, this study provides a comparative analysis of intracellular delivery using nanoneedle arrays by two different loading methods over a range of operating parameters.
Keywords: Centrifuge loading; Intracellular delivery; Microfabricated nanoneedle array; Microneedle; Puncture loading.