Permeabilization of adhered cells using an inert gas jet

Scott Cooper, Paul Jonak, Guillaume Chouinard-Pelletier, Sylvain Coulombe, Elizabeth Jones, Richard L Leask*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Various cell transfection techniques exist and these can be broken down to three broad categories: viral, chemical and mechanical. This protocol describes a mechanical method to temporally permeabilize adherent cells using an inert gas jet that can facilitate the transfer of normally non-permeable macromolecules into cells. We believe this technique works by imparting shear forces on the plasma membrane of adherent cells, resulting in the temporary formation of micropores. Once these pores are created, the cells are then permeable to genetic material and other biomolecules. The mechanical forces involved do run the risk of permanently damaging or detaching cells from their substrate. There is, therefore, a narrow range of inert gas dynamics where the technique is effective. An inert gas jet has proven efficient at permeabilizing various adherent cell lines including HeLa, HEK293 and human abdominal aortic endothelial cells. This protocol is appropriate for the permeabilization of adherent cells both in vitro and, as we have demonstrated, in vivo, showing it may be used for research and potentially in future clinical applications. It also has the advantage of permeabilizing cells in a spatially restrictive manner, which could prove to be a valuable research tool.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere50612
JournalJournal of visualized experiment
Issue number79
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion/physiology
  • Cell Membrane/drug effects
  • Cell Membrane Permeability/drug effects
  • Chick Embryo
  • Chorioallantoic Membrane/cytology
  • Cytological Techniques/methods
  • HeLa Cells
  • Helium/chemistry
  • Humans
  • Plasma Gases/chemistry

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