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See Inside Scientific American Volume 311, Issue 1

How to Get New Genes Into a Cell

A teeny device for fundamental genetics


The nanoinjector is only about a millimeter across. Here a bead stands in for the egg cell of a mouse.


FROM “A SELF-RECONFIGURING METAMORPHIC NANOINJECTOR FOR INJECTION INTO MOUSE ZYGOTES,” BY QUENTIN T. ATEN Et Al., In REVIEW OF SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENTS, VOL. 85, NO. 5; MAY 2014

To insert genes into a cell, scientists often prick it with a tiny glass pipette and inject a solution with the new DNA. The extra liquid and the pipette itself, however, can destroy it: only half of cells that undergo this procedure survive. In place of a pipette, scientists at Brigham Young University have developed a silicon lance. They apply a positive charge to the lance so that the negative-charged DNA sticks. When the device enters a cell, the charge is reversed and the DNA is set free. In the study, 72 percent of nearly 3,000 mouse egg cells survived.

This article was originally published with the title "Hold Still."

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