Transport of a graphene nanosheet sandwiched inside cell membranes

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Science Advances  07 Jun 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 6, eaaw3192
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw3192


The transport of nanoparticles at bio-nano interfaces is essential for many cellular responses and biomedical applications. How two-dimensional nanomaterials, such as graphene and transition-metal dichalcogenides, diffuse along the cell membrane is, however, unknown, posing an urgent and important issue to promote their applications in the biomedical area. Here, we show that the transport of graphene oxides (GOs) sandwiched inside cell membranes varies from Brownian to Lévy and even directional dynamics. Specifically, experiments evidence sandwiched graphene–cell membrane superstructures in different cells. Combined simulations and analysis identify a sandwiched GO–induced pore in cell membrane leaflets, spanning unstable, metastable, and stable states. An analytical model that rationalizes the regimes of these membrane-pore states fits simulations quantitatively, resulting in a mechanistic interpretation of the emergence of Lévy and directional dynamics. We finally demonstrate the applicability of sandwiched GOs in enhanced efficiency of membrane-specific drug delivery. Our findings inform approaches to programming intramembrane transport of two-dimensional nanomaterials toward advantageous biomedical applications.

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