This Mechanical Nano-Lance Is One Hundredth the Size of a Human Hair

Illustration for article titled This Mechanical Nano-Lance Is One Hundredth the Size of a Human Hair

You may think this looks like the surface of the Death Star, but actually it's a microscopic device that delivers DNA into the nucleus of a single cell.

The process has been awesomely dubbed metamorphic nanoinjection by Brigham Young University scientists, and it benefits all kinds of genetic research for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's. With older methods of transferring DNA, you basically had a tiny hollowed-out needle that injected fluid containing the DNA into the cell. That fluid would cause many of the cells to die, completely ruining the experiment. With the new method, the lance is not only 10 times smaller, but delivers the DNA simply using an electrical charge.

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DNA strands, which hold a negative charge, stick to the positively charged lance. Once the lance penetrates the cell, the charge on the lance is reversed and the DNA molecules are dropped right off inside. Simple!

The lance itself is a hundredth the size of a human hair. Not knowing how small it is in the image, it looks pretty frikkin' terrifying. [BYU via Prosthetic Knowledge]

GIF courtesy of Prosthetic Knowledge

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DISCUSSION

The whole device that you see in the images is a hundredth the size of a human hair. Not knowing how small it is, it looks pretty frikkin' terrifying.

A fine human hair is ~0.002" or 0.05 mm.

In this image, about half the diameter of of the gray ball.

One micron is 0.001 mm

"One hundredth of a human hair" would be about a half a micron, or one half the diameter of the ball at the left... the ball you can't see already.