Cell-penetrating carbon nanotubes for delivery of therapeutics

The use of carbon-based nanostructures, such as carbon nanotubes, in biomedicine is increasingly attracting attention. One key advantage of carbon nanotubes is their ability to translocate through plasma membranes, allowing their use for the delivery of therapeutically active molecules in a manner that resembles cell-penetrating peptides. Moreover, exploitation of their unique electrical, optical, thermal, and spectroscopic properties in a biological context is hoped to yield great advances in the detection, monitoring, and therapy of disease. Here we offer a speculative overview of the general principles behind the mechanism of carbon nanotube penetration of the plasma membrane and a snapshot of the different therapeutic modalities based on these fascinating nanostructures that are currently being investigated.