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’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?
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!
A new tool for discovering nanoporous materials
23.05.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Did you know that packaging is becoming intelligent through flash systems?
23.05.2017 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy