The ability to inject DNA and other foreign particles into cells, both germ cells (e.g. to produce transgenic animals) and somatic cells (e.g. for gene therapy), is a powerful tool in genetic research. Nanoinjection is a method of DNA delivery that combines mechanical and electrical methods. It has proven to have higher cell viability than traditional microinjection, resulting in higher integration per injected embryo. The nanoinjection process can be performed on thousands of cells simultaneously using an array of microneedles that is inserted into a monolayer of cells. This thesis describes the needle array design requirements and the fabrication process used to meet them. The process uses unpassivated and passivated deep reactive ion etching (DRIE) to create needles with a constant diameter shaft and a pointed tip. The needle diameter and height are about 1 µm and 8 µm, respectively. A buckling analysis and physical testing show that the needles can withstand the force required to penetrate the cells. The chip is attached to a plastic suspension with a counter electrode and electrical connections to a voltage source. The suspension's motion is defined by two compliant orthoplanar springs that have been vertically and rotationally offset for added stability. The base of the suspension is designed to exactly fit in the bottom of a cell culture dish, where the needle array can be pushed into the cell monolayer. Injection protocol was created and followed to perform tests with needle insertion only, voltage application only, and the full nanoinjection process. The average cell viability for the full injection process was 98.2% compared to an average control viability of 99.5%. Zero volt injections with a high concentration of propidium iodide, a cell impermeable dye with two positive charges, resulted in dye uptake from diffusion, proving that the needles are penetrating the cells. Tests comparing injections with and without voltage had high variability in dye uptake. Therefore, glass cover slips were placed in the culture dishes to provide more consistent injection conditions. This reduced variation in zero voltage tests. It is recommended that this procedure be followed for performing injections with voltage.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





MEMS, microinjection, nanoinjection, microneedles, DRIE, cell culture