Pinpoint Delivery of Molecules by Using Electron Beam Addressing Virtual Cathode Display

IEEE Trans Nanobioscience. 2018 Mar;17(1):62-69. doi: 10.1109/TNB.2018.2798582.


Electroporation, a physical transfection method to introduce genomic molecules in selective living cells, could be implemented by microelectrode devices. A local electric field generated by a finer electrode can induces cytomembrane poration in the electrode vicinity. To employ fine, high-speed scanning electrodes, we developed a fine virtual cathode pattern, which was generated on a cell adhesive surface of 100-nm-thick SiN membrane by inverted-electron beam lithography. The SiN membrane works as both a vacuum barrier and the display screen of the virtual cathode. The kinetic energy of the incident primary electrons to the SiN membrane was completely blocked, whereas negative charges and leaking electric current appeared on the surface of the dielectric SiN membrane within a region of 100 nm. Locally controlled transmembrane molecular delivery was demonstrated on adhered C2C12 myoblast cells in a culturing medium with fluorescent dye propidium iodide (PI). Increasing fluorescence of pre-diluted PI indicated local poration and transmembrane inflow at the virtual cathode position, as well as intracellular diffusion. The transmembrane inflows depended on beam duration time and acceleration voltage. At the post-molecular delivery, a slight decrease in intracellular PI fluorescence intensity indicates membrane recovery from the poration. Cell viability was confirmed by time-lapse cell imaging of post-exposure cell migration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Drug Delivery Systems / instrumentation*
  • Electroporation / instrumentation*
  • Electroporation / methods*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Fluorescent Dyes / pharmacokinetics
  • Mice
  • Microelectrodes
  • Propidium / chemistry
  • Propidium / pharmacokinetics


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Propidium