Introduction of exogenous genetic material into primary stem cells is essential for studying biological function and for clinical applications. Traditional delivery methods for nucleic acids, such as electroporation, have advanced the field, but have negative effects on stem cell function and viability. We introduce nanostraw-assisted transfection as an alternative method for RNA delivery to human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs). Nanostraws are hollow alumina nanotubes that can be used to deliver biomolecules to living cells. We use nanostraws to target human primary HSPCs and show efficient delivery of mRNA, short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), DNA oligonucleotides, and dextrans of sizes ranging from 6 kDa to 2,000 kDa. Nanostraw-treated cells were fully functional and viable, with no impairment in their proliferative or colony-forming capacity, and showed similar long-term engraftment potential in vivo as untreated cells. Additionally, we found that gene expression of the cells was not perturbed by nanostraw treatment, while conventional electroporation changed the expression of more than 2,000 genes. Our results show that nanostraw-mediated transfection is a gentle alternative to established gene delivery methods, and uniquely suited for nonperturbative treatment of sensitive primary stem cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21267-21273
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number35
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Hematology
  • Physical Sciences

Free keywords

  • Electroporation
  • Hematopoietic stem cell
  • MRNA delivery
  • Nanostraws
  • Transfection


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