A fluorescent nanoprobe could become a universal, noninvasive method to identify and monitor tumors
A*STAR researchers have developed a hybrid metal–polymer nanoparticle that lights up in the acidic environment surrounding tumor cells. Nonspecific probes that can identify any kind of tumor are extremely useful for monitoring the location and spread of cancer and the effects of treatment, as well as aiding initial diagnosis.
Cancerous tumors typically have lower than normal pH levels, which correspond to increased acidity both inside the cells and within the extracellular microenvironment surrounding the cells. This simple difference between tumor cells and normal cells has led several research groups to develop probes that can detect the low pH of tumors using optical imaging, magnetic resonance and positron emission tomography.
Most of these probes, however, target the intracellular pH, which requires the probes to enter the cells in order to work. A greater challenge has been to detect the difference in extracellular pH between healthy tissue and tumor tissue as the pH difference is smaller. Success would mean that the probes are not required to enter the cells.
“Our aim is to address the challenge of illuminating tumors universally,” says Bin Liu from the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering. Liu’s team, together with colleagues from the National University of Singapore, based their new probe on polymers that self-assemble on gold nanoparticles. The resulting hybrid structure is not fluorescent at normal physiological pH values: instead acidic conditions similar to those around tumor cells of approximately pH 6.5 alter chemical groups on the surface of the probes and switch on their fluorescence.
After validating the switching mechanism in pH-controlled solutions, the researchers tested the probes using cultured cells and also in tumor-bearing mice illuminated under bright light. Twenty-four hours after injection into the mice, obvious and clear fluorescence was seen only from tumor-bearing tissue, using either whole-body imaging or examination of removed organs (see image). The ability to observe the fluorescence of tumors using noninvasive whole-body examination of living mice indicates the potential of the nanoprobes for use in clinical situations with human patients.
“Our probes have so far proved to be biocompatible, which will be crucial for biomedical applications,” says Liu. “We now plan to check further for any toxicity issues and assess the biological distribution and pharmacological profile of the probes before hopefully moving on to clinical trials,” she adds. This is the latest of several recent advances in nanoscale medical technology from Liu’s group.
 Yuan, Y., Ding, D., Li, K., Liu, J. & Liu, B. Tumor-responsive fluorescent light-up probe based on a gold nanoparticle/conjugated polyelectrolyte hybrid. Small 10, 1967–1975 (2014).
A*STAR Research | ResearchSEA
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences