Selective gene transfection of individual cells in vitro with plasmonic nanobubbles

Ekaterina Y. Lukianova-Hleb, Adam P. Samaniego, Jianguo Wen, Leonid S. Metelitsa, Chung Che Chang, Dmitri O. Lapotko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Gene delivery and transfection of eukaryotic cells are widely used for research and for developing gene cell therapy. However, the existing methods lack selectivity, efficacy and safety when heterogeneous cell systems must be treated. We report a new method that employs plasmonic nanobubbles (PNBs) for delivery and transfection. A PNB is a novel, tunable cellular agent with a dual mechanical and optical action due to the formation of the vapor nanobubble around a transiently heated gold nanoparticle upon its exposure to a laser pulse. PNBs enabled the mechanical injection of the extracellular cDNA plasmid into the cytoplasm of individual target living cells, cultured leukemia cells and human CD34+ CD117+ stem cells and expression of a green fluorescent protein (GFP) in those cells. PNB generation and lifetime correlated with the expression of green fluorescent protein in PNB-treated cells. Optical scattering by PNBs additionally provided the detection of the target cells and the guidance of cDNA injection at single cell level. In both cell models PNBs demonstrated a gene transfection effect in a single pulse treatment with high selectivity, efficacy and safety. Thus, PNBs provided targeted gene delivery at the single cell level in a single pulse procedure that can be used for safe and effective gene therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-293
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 10 2011


  • Gene delivery
  • Laser
  • Nanoparticle
  • Plasmonic nanobubble
  • Targeting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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