Photoacoustic drug delivery using carbon nanoparticles activated by femtosecond and nanosecond laser pulses
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Cellular internalization of large therapeutic agents such as proteins or nucleic acids is a challenging task because of the presence of the plasma membrane. One strategy to facilitate intracellular drug uptake is to induce transient pores in the cell membrane through physical delivery strategies. Physical approaches are attractive as they offer more generic applicability compared with viral or biochemical counterparts. Pulsed laser light can induce the endothermic carbon-steam reaction in carbon-nanoparticle suspensions to produce explosive photoacoustic effects in the surrounding medium. In this study, for the first time, these photoacoustic forces were used to transiently permeabilize the cell membrane to deliver macromolecules into cells. Intracellular delivery using this method was demonstrated in multiple cell types for uptake of small molecules, proteins and DNA. At optimized conditions, uptake was seen in up to 50% of cells with nearly 100% viability and in 90% of cells with ≥90% viability, which compared favorably with other physical methods of drug delivery. Cellular bioeffects were shown to be a consequence of laser-carbon interaction and correlated with properties of the carbon and laser, such as carbon concentration and size, laser pulse duration, wavelength, intensity and exposure time. Similar results were observed using two different lasers, a femtosecond Ti: Sapphire laser and a nanosecond Nd: YAG laser. Uptake was also shown in murine skeletal muscles in vivo with up to 40% efficiency compared to non-irradiated controls. This synergistic use of nanotechnology with advanced laser technology could provide an alternative to viral and chemical-based drug and gene delivery.