The ability to monitor and investigate intracellular processes is crucial for biomedical, cancer and aging research, and has direct applications in disease diagnosis, and drug development. The investigation of such processes requires tools capable of accurate and quantitative monitoring of an array of dynamically changing physical and chemical properties in specific cells at subcellular resolution and with minimal disruption to the cell. Despite significant recent advances in the field, implementing multiple functions in a single device while maintaining the required subcellular spatial resolution is a major technological challenge, as the entire probing instrument tip should not exceed submicrometer dimensions. Therefore, existing tools are limited in their sensing capabilities to single properties. The main objective of FUNPROBE is to develop a multifunctional nanoscale probe, which will combine controlled intracellular delivery and extraction, sensing of temperature, selective ion concentration, and electrical recording, whose various functions can be operated simultaneously to enable quantitative monitoring of intracellular processes in real time, with minimal damage to the cell, in a single device. To achieve this goal, a new fabrication method will be developed, enabling, for the first time, to create a high aspect-ratio nanometric tip with integrated open-ended nanochannels, and their combination with conductive and insulating layers at the tip. The development of such techniques is in alignment with the European Commission's aims of developing multifunctional nano-enabled products for different applications. The project will take full advantage of the unique combination between the applicant’s expertise in developing open-space fluidic and electrokinetic probes and the host laboratory’s expertise in nanofluidics, nanofabrication, and single cell electrophysiology.
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