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.
Patent Information and References
- S. Patents 7,939,170 and 7,951,453
- Dubertret, et al. 2002. In vivo imaging of quantum dots encapsulated in phospholipid micelles. Science, 298:1759-1762.