Nanoparticle-based delivery of drugs and contrast agents holds great promise in cancer research, because of the increased delivery efficiency compared to ‘free’ drugs and dyes. A versatile platform to investigate nanotechnology is the chick embryo chorioallantoic membrane tumour model, due to its availability (easy, cheap) and accessibility (interventions, imaging). In our group, we developed this model using several tumour cell lines (e.g. breast cancer, colon cancer). In addition, we have synthesized in-house silica coated photoluminescent upconversion nanoparticles with several functional groups (COOH, NH<sub>2</sub>, PEG). In this work we will present the systematic assessment of their in vivo blood circulation times. To this end, we injected chick embryos grown ex ovo with the functionalized UCNPs and obtained a small amount of blood at several time points after injection to create blood smears The UCNP signal from the blood smears was quantified using a modified inverted microscope imaging set-up. The results of this systematic study are valuable to optimize biochemistry protocols and guide nanomedicine advancement in the versatile chick embryo tumour model.
Innovative luminescent nanomaterials, termed upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs), have demonstrated considerable promise as molecular probes for high-contrast optical imaging in cells and small animals. The feasibility study of optical diagnostics in humans is reported here based on experimental and theoretical modeling of optical imaging of an UCNP-labeled breast cancer lesion. UCNPs synthesized in-house were surface-capped with an amphiphilic polymer to achieve good colloidal stability in aqueous buffer solutions. The scFv4D5 mini-antibodies were grafted onto the UCNPs via a high-affinity molecular linker barstar:barnase (Bs:Bn) to allow their specific binding to the human epidermal growth factor receptor HER2/neu, which is overexpressed in human breast adenocarcinoma cells SK-BR-3. UCNP-Bs:Bn-scFv4D5 biocomplexes exhibited high-specific immobilization on the SK-BR-3 cells with the optical contrast as high as 10:1 benchmarked against a negative control cell line. Breast cancer optical diagnostics was experimentally modeled by means of epi-luminescence imaging of a monolayer of the UCNP-labeled SK-BR-3 cells buried under a breast tissue mimicking optical phantom. The experimental results were analyzed theoretically and projected to in vivo detection of early-stage breast cancer. The model predicts that the UCNP-assisted cancer detection is feasible up to 4 mm in tissue depth, showing considerable potential for diagnostic and image-guided surgery applications.