Highly fluorescent gold nanoclusters for sub-cellular imaging have been synthesized by researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), one of the research institutes of Singapore's A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research).
Measuring less than 1 nanometer in diameter, IBN's gold clusters are much smaller than currently available nanoscale imaging technologies such as semiconducting quantum dots, which are usually at least 3 nanometers in size. 1 nanometer is approximately 5 orders smaller than the breadth of a human hair (~105 nm).
Unlike quantum dots, the gold nanoclusters are suitable for use within the body because they do not contain toxic metals such as cadmium and lead.
This invention, which has broad implications for biolabeling and disease diagnosis, was recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, 131 (2009) 888-889.
The gold nanoclusters' sub-nanometer size makes it easy to target the nucleus inside the cell for sub-cellular biolabeling and bioimaging. Tracking the cell nucleus can help scientists monitor the fundamental life processes of healthy DNA replication and any genomic changes. With improved bioimaging at the cell nucleus, scientists can also study the effectiveness of drug and gene therapies.
"Gold nanoclusters have promising characteristics for applications in vivo. Our materials are smaller, less toxic and more biocompatible than the existing inorganic fluorescent quantum dot tags. The red fluorescence of the nanoclusters enhances biomedical images of the body greatly as there is reduced background fluorescence and better tissue penetration," said IBN Postdoctoral Fellow Jianping Xie, Ph.D.
Synthesized via a single-step reaction at body temperature (37C), the gold nanoclusters are formed with a commercially available common protein such as bovine serum albumin (BSA). "The protein holds and interacts with gold ions in
|Contact: Cathy Yarbrough|
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore