Micromotor-based localized electroporation and gene transfection of mammalian cells


A metallodielectric Janus particle–based micromotor system for local electroporation and gene transfection of a single mammalian cell is studied. This hybrid micromotor is magnetically and electrically propelled with magnetic steering to approach and contact a targeted cell. The targeted cell is then locally electroporated at its contact point with the micromotor, where the electric field is intensified. These Janus particles can enable the introduction of drugs and plasmids to a specific location along a single cell of irregular shape, such as neurons. Moreover, the localized electroporation results in increased cell viability, as only a small portion of the cell is experiencing an intensified electric field.


Herein, we studied localized electroporation and gene transfection of mammalian cells using a metallodielectric hybrid micromotor that is magnetically and electrically powered. Much like nanochannel-based, local electroporation of single cells, the presented micromotor was expected to increase reversible electroporation yield, relative to standard electroporation, as only a small portion of the cell’s membrane (in contact with the micromotor) is affected. In contrast to methods in which the entire membrane of all cells within the sample are electroporated, the presented micromotor can perform, via magnetic steering, localized, spatially precise electroporation of the target cells that it traps and transports. In order to minimize nonselective electrical lysis of all cells within the chamber, resulting from extended exposure to an electrical field, magnetic propulsion was used to approach the immediate vicinity of the targeted cell, after which short-duration, electric-driven propulsion was activated to enable contact with the cell, followed by electroporation. In addition to local injection of fluorescent dye molecules, we demonstrated that the micromotor can enhance the introduction of plasmids into the suspension cells because of the dielectrophoretic accumulation of the plasmids in between the Janus particle and the attached cell prior to the electroporation step. Here, we chose a different strategy involving the simultaneous operation of many micromotors that are self-propelling, without external steering, and pair with cells in an autonomic manner. The locally electroporated suspension cells that are considered to be very difficult to transfect were shown to express the transfected gene, which is of significant importance for molecular biology research.


  • Author contributions: Y.W., A.F., and G.Y. designed research, performed research, analyzed data, and wrote the paper.

  • Competing interest statement: G.Y. and Y.W. declare that a related patent application was filed by the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. A.F. declares that he has no competing financial interests.

  • This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

  • This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.2106353118/-/DCSupplemental.

Data Availability

All study data are included in the article and/or SI Appendix.

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