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Posted: Oct 19, 2011
Biological applications of rare-earth based nanoparticles
(Nanowerk News) Biomedicine and cell and molecular biology require powerful imaging techniques of
the single molecule scale to the whole organism, either for fundamental science or diagnosis. These
applications are however often limited by the optical properties of the available probes. Moreover, in
cell biology, the measurement of the cell response with spatial and temporal resolution is a central
instrumental problem. This has been one of the main motivations for the development of new
probes and imaging techniques either for biomolecule labeling or detection of an intracellular
The weak photostability of genetically encoded probes or organic dyes has
motivated the interest for different types of nanoparticles for imaging such as quantum dots,
nanodiamonds, dye-doped silica particles, or metallic nanoparticles.
One of the most active fields of
research in the past decade has thus been the development of rare-earth based nanoparticles, whose
optical properties and low cytotoxicity are promising for biological applications.
of rare-earth based nanoparticles include high photostability, absence of blinking, extremely narrow
emission lines, large Stokes shifts, long lifetimes that can be exploited for retarded detection
schemes, and facile functionalization strategies. The use of specific ions in their compositions can be
moreover exploited for oxidant detection or for implementing potent contrast agents for magnetic
The authors highlight how chemical composition tuning and surface functionalization lead to specific
properties, which can be used for different imaging modalities. They discuss their performances for
imaging in comparison with other probes and to what extent they could constitute a central tool in
the future of molecular and cell biology.