Integrated optical transfection system using a microlens fiber combined with microfluidic gene delivery

N. Ma, P. C. Ashok, D. J. Stevenson, F. J. Gunn-Moore, K. Dholakia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Optical transfection is a promising technique for the delivery of foreign genetic material into cells by transiently changing the permeability of the cell membrane. Of the different optical light sources that have been used, femtosecond laser based transfection has been one of the most effective methods for optical transfection which is generally implemented using a free space bulk optical setup. In conventional optical transfection methods the foreign genetic material to be transfected is homogenously mixed in the medium. Here we report the first realization of an integrated optical transfection system which can achieve transfection along with localized drug delivery by combining a microlens fiber based optical transfection system with a micro-capillary based microfluidic system. A fiber based illumination system is also incorporated in the system in order to achieve visual identification of the cell boundaries during transfection. A novel fabrication method is devised to obtain easy and inexpensive fabrication of microlensed fibers, which can be used for femtosecond optical transfection. This fabrication method offers the flexibility to fabricate a microlens which can focus ultra-short laser pulses at a near infrared wavelength to a small focal spot (~3 μm) whilst keeping a relatively large working distance (~20 μm). The transfection efficiency of the integrated system with localized plasmid DNA delivery, is approximately 50%, and is therefore comparable to that of a standard free space transfection system. Also the use of integrated system for localized gene delivery resulted in a reduction of the required amount of DNA for transfection. The miniaturized, integrated design opens a range of exciting experimental possibilities, including the dosing of tissue slices, targeted drug delivery, and targeted gene therapy in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)694-705
Number of pages12
JournalBiomedical Optics Express
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Sept 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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