Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 78
Cobaltabisdicarbollide (COSAN) [3,3′-Co(1,2-C2B9H11)2]−, is a complex boron-based anion that has the unusual property of self-assembly into membranes and vesicles. These membranes have similar dimensions to biological membranes found in cells, and previously COSAN has been shown to pass through synthetic lipid membranes and those of living cells without causing breakdown of membrane barrier properties. Here, we investigate the interaction of this inorganic membrane system with living cells. We show that COSAN has no immediate effect on cell viability, and cells fully recover when COSAN is removed following exposure for hours to days. COSAN elicits a range of cell biological effects, including altered cell morphology, inhibition of cell growth and, in some cases, apoptosis. These observations reveal a new biology at the interface between inorganic, synthetic COSAN membranes and naturally occurring biological membranes.