Carbon dots, particles less than 50 nanometers in diameter, are naturally fluorescent and don’t require any dyes or other compounds to show their presence within living cells. They’re difficult to work with, as activating them to fluoresce depending on their environment has been a challenge. Now researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created a way of sneaking carbon dots into the interior of cancer cells and turning their ability to fluoresce on or off in the process.
“We can apply this technique for intracellular trafficking by means of switchable photo-luminescence in mammalian cells in vitro, wherein the endocytic membrane-abundant anionic amphiphilic molecules participates in the ‘de-caging’ process,” in a statement said Dipanjan Pan, assistant professor of bioengineering at University of Illinois. “The carbon dots, each measuring less than 50 nanometers in diameter, are derived from agave nectar and are highly luminescent. The in situ nanoscale chemical exchange further probed into the mechanistic understanding of the origin of carbon luminescence and indicated that it is primarily a surface phenomenon.”
Some details about the technology from the study in Journal of the American Chemical Society:
Reversible switching of photoluminescence (PL) of carbon nanoparticles (CNP) can be achieved with counterionic macromolecular caging and decaging at the nanoscale. A negatively charged uncoated, “bare” CNP with high luminescence loses its PL when positively charged macromolecules are wrapped around its surface. Prepared caged carbons could regain their emission only through interaction with anionic surfactant molecules, representing anionic amphiphiles of endocytic membranes.
Study in Journal of the American Chemical Society: Macromolecularly “Caged” Carbon Nanoparticles for Intracellular Trafficking via Switchable Photoluminescence…