Letter abstract


Nature Nanotechnology 2, 713 - 717 (2007)
Published online: 28 October 2007 | doi:10.1038/nnano.2007.347

Subject term: Carbon nanotubes and fullerenes

Direct imaging of single-walled carbon nanotubes in cells

Alexandra E. Porter1, Mhairi Gass2, Karin Muller3, Jeremy N. Skepper3, Paul A. Midgley4 & Mark Welland1


The development of single-walled carbon nanotubes for various biomedical applications is an area of great promise. However, the contradictory data on the toxic effects of single-walled carbon nanotubes1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 highlight the need for alternative ways to study their uptake and cytotoxic effects in cells. Single-walled carbon nanotubes have been shown to be acutely toxic1, 2, 3 in a number of types of cells, but the direct observation of cellular uptake of single-walled carbon nanotubes has not been demonstrated previously due to difficulties in discriminating carbon-based nanotubes from carbon-rich cell structures. Here we use transmission electron microscopy and confocal microscopy to image the translocation of single-walled carbon nanotubes into cells in both stained and unstained human cells. The nanotubes were seen to enter the cytoplasm and localize within the cell nucleus, causing cell mortality in a dose-dependent manner.

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  1. The Nanoscience Centre, University of Cambridge, 11 J. J. Thompson Avenue, Cambridge CB3 OFF, UK
  2. UK SuperSTEM, Daresbury Laboratory, Daresbury, Cheshire WA4 4AD, UK
  3. Multiimaging Centre, Department of Anatomy, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DY, UK
  4. Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, University of Cambridge, Pembroke Street, Cambridge CB2 3QZ, UK

Correspondence to: Alexandra E. Porter1 e-mail: aep30@cam.ac.uk



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