This pressure may vary depending on environmental changes, which subjects the cells to a mechanical force whose influence is not entirely known. An investigation by the National Research Council (CSIC) has designed a device capable of detecting pressure changes inside the cell. Progress has earned the cover of the latest issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

The chip is 4 microns (equivalent to one millionth of a meter) wide, 6 microns long and 0.4 microns high. For the researcher of the Institute of Microelectronics of Barcelona CSIC José Antonio Plaza, responsible for the work, "one of the greatest achievements of the research has been to achieve such a level of miniaturization that allows the chip to enter the cell, where it resides without affecting its viability. "

Chip base two silicon membranes 50 nanometers (one billion times smaller than a meter) thick which are deformed by the action of pressure. Both are joined to an optical resonator that modifies the light reflecting function of the force at which the membranes are subjected.
Experiments on HeLa cells (a type of cell culture, particularly resistant) show that increasing extracellular pressure, it is transmitted inside the cell without its membrane and cytoskeletal oppose resistance.

For its part, the researcher at the Center for Biological Research of CSIC Teresa Suarez, who led the biological work, explains: "The ability to measure pressure changes inside the cell it is essential to study cell deformation" . This cellular mechanical phenomenon is related to other processes such as development, migration and cell disease.

Square believes that "this multidisciplinary research is a first step in the path of intracellular Nanochips sophisticated manufacturing". Advancing this field will create more devices with various functions such as the measurement of parameters mechanical, thermal, biochemical, and magnetic, and drug delivery. CSIC researcher concludes: "These chips could act as sentinels inside cells, always alert to check their status, inform the same and repair, if necessary.."


 Rodrigo Gómez-Martínez, Alberto M. Hernández-Pinto, Marta Duch, Patricia Vázquez, Kirill Zinoviev, Enrique J. de la Rosa, Jaume Esteve, Teresa Suárez and José A. Plaza. Silicon chips detect intracellular pressure changes in living cells. Nature Nanotechnology. DOI: 10.1038/NNANO.2013.118