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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 signaling species.
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.
Attractive properties 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 resonance imaging.
A recently published review in ACS Nano ("Biological Applications of Rare-Earth Based Nanoparticles") presents these different applications of rare-earth nanoparticles for biomolecule detection and imaging in vitro, in living cells or in small animals.
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.
Source: American Chemical Society
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