Silicon nanowires and optical stimulation for investigations of intra- and intercellular electrical coupling

Menahem Y. Rotenberg, Erik N. Schaumann, Aleksander Prominski, Bozhi Tian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Myofibroblasts can spontaneously internalize silicon nanowires (SiNWs), making them an attractive target for bioelectronic applications. These cell-silicon hybrids offer leadless optical modulation capabilities with minimal perturbation to normal cell behavior. The optical capabilities are obtained by the photothermal and photoelectric properties of SiNWs. These hybrids can be harvested using standard tissue culture techniques and then applied to different biological scenarios. We demonstrate here how these hybrids can be used to study the electrical coupling of cardiac cells and compare how myofibroblasts couple to one another or to cardiomyocytes. This process can be accomplished without special equipment beyond a fluorescent microscope with coupled laser line. Also shown is the use of a custom-built MATLAB routine that allows the quantification of calcium propagation within and between the different cells in the culture. Myofibroblasts are shown to have a slower electrical response than that of cardiomyocytes. Moreover, the myofibroblast intercellular propagation shows slightly slower, though comparable velocities to their intracellular velocities, suggesting passive propagation through gap junctions or nanotubes. This technique is highly adaptable and can be easily applied to other cellular arenas, for in vitro as well as in vivo or ex vivo investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere61581
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number167
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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