The use of semiconductor quantum dots (qdots) as optical imaging agents is well established; however, the use of these nanoparticles to form interfaces that interact directly with cells has proved more challenging. Our goal has been to create specific nanoparticle-neuronal receptor interfaces that can be optically excited to elicit an action potential. Our preliminary calculations showed the possible feasibility of this approach, even in the presence of Debye screening. We therefore have developed several methods of nanoparticle-directed binding to cell surfaces. These methods can produce either nonspecific or directed interfaces, only nanometers from the receptor of interest. These techniques are versatile and have allowed us to achieve a variety of nanoparticle-neuron interfaces; however, they are also subject to inherent limitations at the cell surface, including endocytosis. To address this concern, we have developed tethered nanoparticle films, which may be able to interact nonspecifically with receptors of nerve cells cultured on their surfaces. These films were found to be extremely stable in cell culture media, but degraded within 3-5 days in primary neuron cultures. Here, we discuss the initial development of tethered quantum dot films produced in our laboratory and their compatibility with cell culture conditions.© (2005) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.