Internalization and cytotoxicity analysis of silicon-based microparticles in macrophages and embryos


Microchips can be fabricated, using semiconductor technologies, at microscopic level to be introduced into living cells for monitoring of intracellular parameters at a single cell level. As a first step towards intracellular chips development, silicon and polysilicon microparticles of controlled shape and dimensions were fabricated and introduced into human macrophages and mouse embryos by phagocytosis and microinjection, respectively. Microparticles showed to be non-cytotoxic for macrophages and were found to be localized mainly inside early endosomes, in tight association with endosomal membrane, and more rarely in acidic compartments. Embryos with microinjected microparticles developed normally to the blastocyst stage, confirming the non-cytotoxic effect of the particles. In view of these results silicon and polysilicon microparticles can serve as the frame for future intracellular chips development and this technology opens the possibility of real complex devices to be used as sensors or actuators inside living cells.

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confocal laser scanning microscopy


focus ion beam


IntraCellular Chips


MicroElectroMechanical Systems






polystyrene fluorescent microspheres


polysilicon MP


scanning electron microscope


Silicon MP


transmission electron microscopy


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This work was supported by the Spanish government under the MINAHE 2 (TEC2005-07996-C02-01) and the MINAHE 3 (TEC2008-06883-C03-01 and TEC2008-06883-C03-03). We also wish to thank the MEC-GICSERV program, the SGR program from the Catalan government (2005SGR-00437), the IBM-CNM clean room staff, and the staff at the Servei de Microscopia at Universitat Autònoma Barcelona.

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Correspondence to Carme Nogués.

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Fig. S1

Shows a schematic representation of the fabrication process of Si- and pSi-MPs. Video 1 shows a FIB sectioning of a macrophage with an internalized Si-MP. Video 2 presents a xyz reconstruction of consecutive focal planes of a macrophage with an internalized pSi-MP. Video S3 provides the microinjection process of a pSi-MP into the cytoplasm of a mouse one-cell embryo. (GIF 132 kb)

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Video 1

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Video 2

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Video 3

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Fernández-Rosas, E., Gómez, R., Ibañez, E. et al. Internalization and cytotoxicity analysis of silicon-based microparticles in macrophages and embryos. Biomed Microdevices 12, 371–379 (2010).

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  • Silicon
  • Polysilicon
  • Microparticle
  • MEMS
  • Cytotoxicity