Skip to main content

RU 600

Biocompatible Quantum Dots for In Vivo Imaging

Quantum dots are fluorescent nano-sized crystals with unique semi-conductor qualities and the ability to fluoresce for long periods of time.  The main challenge is that quantum dots have hydrophobic organic ligands coating their surface, rendering them water-insoluble and thus unsuitable for biological applications.

Our researchers have developed water-soluble quantum dots by encapsulating the crystals in phospholipid micelles, which is a simple chemical ligand with a hydrophobic head and a hydorophilic tail.  These novel quantum dots are compatible with a cell’s aqueous environment and are thus suitable for in vivo biological use.


  • Quantum dots have sustainable fluorescence and are less prone to photo-bleaching, in comparison to standard organic fluorophores.
  • Quantum dots can be made in many colors (broader spectrum) simply by varying the size of the quantum dot.
  • These quantum dots are water-soluble and are thus biocompatible.
  • Quantum dots are stable, durable, and not toxic to living cells or to a living organism.

Area of Application

  • A significant improvement in in vivo imaging for research and diagnostic purposes.
  • The development of markers by tagging individual cells or proteins.

Stage of Development

The micelle-encapsulated quantum dots have been successfully used in live frog embryos.

Lead Inventor

Albert Libchaber

Patent Information and References

For Further Information