Light-emitting nanoparticles could provide a safer way to image living cells

ScienceDaily | 8/15/2018 | Staff
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The specially designed nanoparticles can be excited by ultralow-power laser light at near-infrared wavelengths considered safe for the human body. They absorb this light and then emit visible light that can be measured by standard imaging equipment.

The development and biological imaging application of these nanoparticles is detailed in a study published online Aug. 6 in Nature Communications.

Researchers - Alloyed - Upconverting - Nanoparticles - AUCNPs

Researchers hope to further develop these so-called alloyed upconverting nanoparticles, or aUCNPs, so that they can attach to specific components of cells to serve in an advanced imaging system to light up even single cancer cells, for example. Such a system may ultimately guide high-precision surgeries and radiation treatments, and help to erase even very tiny traces of cancer.

"With a laser even weaker than a standard green laser pointer, we can image deep into tissue," said Bruce Cohen, who is part of a science team at Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry that is working with UC San Francisco researchers to adapt the nanoparticles for medical uses. The Molecular Foundry is a DOE Office of Science User Facility specializing in nanoscience research -- it is accessible to visiting scientists from around the nation and the world.

Cohen - Systems - Laser - Light - Risk

Cohen noted that some existing imaging systems use higher-power laser light that runs the risk of damaging cells.

"The challenge is: How do we image living systems at high sensitivity without damaging them? This combination of low-energy light and low-laser powers is what everyone in the field has been working toward for a while," he said. The laser power needed for the aUCNPs is millions of times lower than the power needed for conventional near-infrared-imaging probes.

Study - Researchers - AUCNPs - Mouse - Tissue

In this latest study, researchers have demonstrated how the aUCNPs can be imaged in live mouse tissue at several millimeters' depth. They were excited with lasers weak enough not to cause any damage.

Researchers injected nanoparticles into the...
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