Introducing nucleic acids into mammalian cells is a crucial step to elucidate biochemical pathways, modify gene expression in immortalized cells, primary cells, and stem cells, and intoduces new approaches for clinical diagnostics and therapeutics. Current gene transfer technologies, including lipofection, electroporation, and viral delivery, have enabled break-through advances in basic and translational science to enable derivation and programming of embryonic stem cells, advanced gene editing using CRISPR (Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats), and development of targeted anti-tumor therapy using chimeric antigen receptors in T-cells (CAR-T). Despite these successes, current transfection technologies are time consuming and limited by the inefficient introduction of test molecules into large populations of target cells, and the cytotoxicity of the techniques. Moreover, many cell types cannot be consistently transfected by lipofection or electroporation (stem cells, T-cells) and viral delivery has limitations to the size of experimental DNA that can be packaged.

In this dissertation, a novel coverslip-like platform consisting of an array of aligned hollow carbon nanotubes (CNTs) embedded in a sacrificial template is developed that enhances gene transfer capabilities, including high efficiency, low toxicity, in an expanded range of target cells, with the potential to transfer mixed combinations of protein and nucleic acids. The CNT array devices are fabricated by a scalable template-based manufacturing method using commercially available membranes, eliminating the need for nano-assembly. High efficient transfection has been demonstrated by delivering various cargos (nanoparticles, dye and plasmid DNA) into populations of cells, achieving 85% efficiency of plasmid DNA delivery into immortalized cells. Moreover, the CNT-mediated transfection of stem cells shows 3 times higher efficiency compared to current lipofection methods. Evaluating the cell-CNT interaction elucidates the importance of the geometrical properties of CNT arrays (CNT exposed length and surface morphology) on transfection efficiency. The results indicate that densely-packed and shortly-exposed CNT arrays with planar surface will enhance gene delivery using this new platform. This technology offers a significant increase in efficiency and cell viability, along with the ease of use compared to current standard methods, which demonstrates its potential to accelerate the development of new cell models to study intractable diseases, decoding the signaling pathways, and drug discovery.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Genetic transformation; Carbon nanotubes

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Microsystems Engineering (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Microsystems Engineering (KGCOE)


Michael G. Schrlau

Advisor/Committee Member

Ian M. Dickerson

Advisor/Committee Member

Christiaan Richter


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at QH450 .G65 2016


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