Photovoltaic nanowires affect human lung cell proliferation under illumination conditions†
Using light to interact with cells is a promising way to steer cell behavior with minimal perturbation. Besides optogenetics, photovoltaic nanostructures such as nanowires can be used to interact with cells using light as a switch. Photovoltaic nanowires have, for instance, been used to stimulate neurons. However, the effects of the photovoltaic activity on cells are still poorly understood and characterized. Here, we investigate the effects of the photovoltaic activity of p–i–n nanowire arrays on A549 human lung adenocarcinoma cells. We have cultured A549 cells on top of vertical arrays of indium phosphide p–i–n nanowires (photovoltaic nanowires), with and without illumination to assess the effects of the nanowire photovoltaic activity on cells. We show that there is a higher proportion of dormant cells when the p–i–n nanowire arrays are illuminated. However, there is no difference in the proportion of dormant cells when the p–i–n nanowires are coated with oxide, which suggests that carrier injection in the cell medium (in this case, the release of electrons from the tip of the nanowires) is an important factor for modulating cell proliferation on photovoltaic nanowires. The results open up for interesting applications of photovoltaic nanowires in biomedicine, such as using them as a dormancy switch.