Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Tiny probes shine brightly to reveal the location of targeted tissues

So BRIGHT, you need to wear shades

Called BRIGHTs, the tiny probes described in the online issue of Advanced Materials on Nov. 15, bind to biomarkers of disease and, when swept by an infrared laser, light up to reveal their location.

Nanostructures called BRIGHTs seek out biomarkers on cells and then beam brightly to reveal their locations. In the tiny gap between the gold skin and the gold core of the cleaved BRIGHT (visible to the upper left), there is an electromagnetic hot spot that lights up the reporter molecules trapped there.

Tiny as they are, the probes are exquisitely engineered objects: gold nanoparticles covered with molecules called Raman reporters, in turn covered by a thin shell of gold that spontaneously forms a dodecahedron.

The Raman reporters are molecules whose jiggling atoms respond to a probe laser by scattering light at characteristic wavelengths.

The shell and core create an electromagnetic hotspot in the gap between them that boosts the reporters’ emission by a factor of nearly a trillion.

BRIGHTs shine about 1.7 x 1011 more brightly than isolated Raman reporters and about 20 times more intensely than the next-closest competitor probe, says Srikanth Singamaneni, PhD, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science in the School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis.

Goosing the signal from Raman reporters
Singamaneni and his postdoctoral research associate Naveen Gandra, PhD, tried several different probe designs before settling on BRIGHTS.

Singamaneni’s lab has worked for years with Raman spectroscopy, a spectroscopic technique that is used to study the vibrational modes (bending and stretching) of molecules. Laser light interacts with these modes and the molecule then emits light at higher or lower wavelengths that are characteristic of the molecule,

Spontaneous Raman scattering, as this phenomenon is called, is by nature very weak, but 30 years ago scientists accidently stumbled on the fact that it is much stronger if the molecules are adsorbed on roughened metallic surfaces. Then they discovered that molecules attached to metallic nanoparticles shine even brighter than those attached to rough surfaces.

The intensity boost from surface-enhanced Raman scattering, or SERS, is potentially huge. “It’s well-known that if you sandwich Raman reporters between two plasmonic materials, such as gold or silver, you are going to see dramatic Raman enhancement,” Singamaneni says.

Originally his team tried to create intense electromagnetic hot spots by sticking smaller particles onto a larger central particle, creating core-satellite assemblies that look like daisies.

“But we realized these assemblies are not ideal for bioimaging,” he says, “because the particles were held together by weak electrostatic interactions and the assemblies were going to come apart in the body.”

Next they tried using something called Click chemistry to make stronger covalent bonds between the satellites and the core.

“We had some success with those assemblies,” Singamaneni says, “but in the meantime we had started to wonder if we couldn’t make an electromagnetic hot spot within a single nanoparticle rather than among particles.

“It occurred to us that if we put Raman reporters between the core and shell of a single particle could we create an internal hotspot.”

That idea worked like a charm.

A rainbow of probes carefully dispensing drugs?
The next step, says Singamaneni, is to test BRIGHTS in vivo in the lab of Sam Achilefu, PhD, professor of radiology in the School of Medicine.

But he’s already thinking of ways to get even more out of the design.

Since different Raman reporter molecules respond at different wavelengths, Singamaneni says, it should be possible to design BRIGHTS targeted to different biomolecules that also have different Raman reporters and then monitor them all simultaneously with the same light probe.

And he and Gandra would like to combine BRIGHTS with a drug container of some kind, so that the containers could be tracked in the body and the drug and released only when it reached the target tissue, thus avoiding many of the side effects patients dread.

Good things, as they say, come in small packages.

Diana Lutz | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht From ancient fossils to future cars
21.10.2016 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht Study explains strength gap between graphene, carbon fiber
20.10.2016 | Rice University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>