Single-cell photonic nanocavity probes

Gary Shambat, Sri Rajasekhar Kothapalli, J. Provine, Tomas Sarmiento, James Harris, Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, Jelena Vučković

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


In this report, we demonstrate for the first time photonic nanocavities operating inside single biological cells. Here we develop a nanobeam photonic crystal (PC) cavity as an advanced cellular nanoprobe, active in nature, and configurable to provide a multitude of actions for both intracellular sensing and control. Our semiconductor nanocavity probes emit photoluminescence (PL) from embedded quantum dots (QD) and sustain high quality resonant photonic modes inside cells. The probes are shown to be minimally cytotoxic to cells from viability studies, and the beams can be loaded in cells and tracked for days at a time, with cells undergoing regular division with the beams. We present in vitro label-free protein sensing with our probes to detect streptavidin as a path towards real-time biomarker and biomolecule detection inside single cells. The results of this work will enable new areas of research merging the strengths of photonic nanocavities with fundamental cell biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4999-5005
Number of pages7
JournalNano letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 13 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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