Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Petrified Cells
06 December 2012

Petrified Cells

Technology is making everything smaller, from mobile phones to microchips. But design on a microscopic scale presents additional challenges – how do you shape objects that you can’t see or touch? Nanotechnology bioengineers have come up with a technique that forces cells to grow into premeditated shapes before rendering them rock hard. Tinkering with internal and external conditions can mould cells into a broad range of shapes. Then, as if pouring cement into a jelly mould, researchers can bathe cells in silicic acid. Silica – a rigid inorganic material – seeps into the cells, coating all their structures and forming a miniature rigid statue of each cell, as pictured here using scanning electron microscopy. This new method of silification, and the creative freedom it brings, could enhance the design of everything from biosensors to fuel cells.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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