Femtosecond optical transfection of individual mammalian cells

M. Antkowiak, M. L. Torres-Mapa, D. J. Stevenson, K. Dholakia, and F. J. Gunn-Moore

Nature Protocols 8, 1216-1233 (2013)

doi: 10.1038/nprot.2013.071

Laser-mediated gene transfection into mammalian cells has recently emerged as a powerful alternative to more traditional transfection techniques. In particular, the use of a femtosecond-pulsed laser operating in the near-infrared (NIR) region has been proven to provide single-cell selectivity, localized delivery, low toxicity and consistent performance. This approach can easily be integrated with advanced multimodal live-cell microscopy and micromanipulation techniques. The efficiency of this technique depends on an understanding by the user of both biology and physics. Therefore, in this protocol we discuss the subtleties that apply to both fields, including sample preparation, alignment and calibration of laser optics and their integration into a microscopy platform. The entire protocol takes ∼5 d to complete, from the initial setup of the femtosecond optical transfection system to the final stage of fluorescence imaging to assay for successful expression of the gene of interest.