NaYF4:Yb3+,Er3+ upconverting nanophosphors (UCNPs) are robust and stable nanoparticles that absorb near-infrared (NIR) photons and emit green and red visible photons through energy transfer upconversion. This mechanism provides UCNPs several advantages as a bioimaging agent over traditional fluorescence imaging agent in that NIR excitation allows high-contrast imaging without autofluorescence and that they can be used for deep-tissue imaging. However, additional surface modification of UCNPs is necessary for them to be biocompatible.
We use an amphiphilic polymer (poly(maleic anhydride-alt-octadecene) (PMAO) and a hetero-functional polyethylene glycol with amine and thiol ends (NH2-PEG-SH)) to make the UCNPs water-soluble. This reaction yields a carboxylic group that allows functionalization with anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (aEGFR), which provides specific binding of UCNPs to EGFR-expressing bladder cancer cells.
Additionally, the thiol ends of the PEGylated UCNPs are able to bind with gold nanorods (AuNRs) to create UCNP-AuNR complexes. The localized surface plasmon of the AuNR then allow localized heating of HTB9 bladder cancer cells, enabling in situ cell killing upon detection by UCNP fluorescence.
Here, we report a successful synthesis, surface modification and conjugation of aEGFR functionalized UCNP-AuNR complexes and in vitro imaging and thermal ablation studies using them. Synthesis and surface modification of UCNP-AuNR complexes are confirmed by electron microscopy. Then, a combination of brightfield, NIR confocal fluorescence, and darkfield microscopy on the UCNP-AuNR treated bladder cancer cells revealed successful cancer targeting and imaging capabilities of the complex. Finally, cell viability assay showed that NIR irradiation of UCNP-AuNR conjugated cells resulted highly selective cell killing.
Suehyun K. Cho, Lih-Jen Su, Thomas W. Flaig, and Wounjhang Park, "Gold nanorods coupled with upconverting nanophosphors for targeted thermal ablation and imaging of bladder cancer cells
(Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 9930, Biosensing and Nanomedicine IX, 99300H (Presented at SPIE Nanoscience + Engineering: August 29, 2016; Published: 3 November 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2238365.5164183643001.
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