In this work package, we are working on single isolated cells as a model system to develop and optimize the “space” mode of magnetic actuation. We are using high magnification microscopes to follow in live the behaviour of nanoparticles in the cytoplasm of living cells. For the success of our project, we need first to understand how nanoparticles move inside cells. Indeed, the cell interior is very crowded by many molecules, and if our nanoparticles are not “inert” enough they will be stuck and not able to move under the application of a magnetic force. We recently developed an assay to measure the biocompatibility of nanoparticles based on the tracking of single nanoparticles. Our assay provides a way to benchmark the nanoparticles, and thus find the best candidate for further applications within the MAGNEURON project. We found that the nanoparticles need to be small enough to move within the maze of the intracellular cytoskeleton and need also to be well passivated to move freely without being stuck to other intracellular molecules.
We also working on the biofunctionalization of magnetic nanoparticles, to be able to control signalling activity inside cells. The behaviour of cells is indeed controlled by many molecules that forms cascades of chemical reactions, called signalling pathways. These signalling pathways can be viewed as the mean by which cells transduce information about the environment and about themselves. Our idea is to hijack these pathways using active molecules attached to the surface of magnetic nanoparticles that are able to activate signals within cells.
In order to assess the success of our tool, we are using fluorescent biomolecules as reporters of the signalling pathway activities. In the movie bellow, the first channel shows a zoom of a part of a cell that have been microinjected with magnetic nanoparticles. The green channel shows the attraction of magnetic nanoparticles toward the tip of the cell, thanks to a magnetic tip which is approached very close to the cell. The red channel reports for the recruitment on the nanoparticle surface of a biomolecule that have been expressed by the cell itself. Eventually, the cyan channel shows the local activation of the targeted signalling pathway, observed by the accumulation of a signalling protein.
HERE MOVIE SPACE MODE
In addition to working with single cells, we are also developing new magnetic devices to manipulate many cells at the same time. To attract magnetic nanoparticles, it is necessary to use high magnetic forces which cannot be obtained with a big magnet. Instead, we use many small magnets, almost of the same size of a cell. Each of these small magnets is then able to attract the magnetic nanoparticles inside cells that are close by. Such a device allows our observations and measurements to be repeated many times in a single shot, thus increasing greatly the throughput of our studies.