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NO.352 11.27.2017

Deeper and Better In Vivo Bioimaging: Observing Diseases Inside Living Body

Bioimaging enables observing cellular-level biological workings inside a living body and is currently one of the hottest areas of medical research

Application for bioimaging includes studies of pathogenesis and its associated mechanism, observing new pharmaceutical chemicals and their response inside body, and many more. Professor Dokyoung Kim and his team at the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology have developed a new photoluminescent nanoparticle that can be used with two-photon microscopy (TPM) that can be designed to target a particular disease inside body. The effectiveness of the new nanoparticle with TPM has been demonstrated inside the bodies of living animals with successful bioimaging identification of tumor tissues. The research result was published in the online version of Advanced Materials under the title, “Two-Photon In Vivo Imaging with Porous Silicon Nanoparticles.”


Developing new photoluminescent nanoparticles for bioimaging
The key to this research was a new porous silicon nanoparticle (pSiNP) developed by Professor Kim’s team, which is very low in biological toxicity and its porous structure makes it highly suitable for carrying medical payload. It is also highly receptive to chemical surface treatment to equip the nanoparticle with a specific function such as targeting a specific disease. What makes this pSiNP so special is its near-infrared (NIR) photoluminescence and outstanding two-photon absorption cross-sections (TPACS), which makes it possible to see deeper into living tissues than was previously able with conventional bioimaging.

Professor Kim said, “This is the first time we are making 50nm particles. We usually prepare silicon nanoparticles from single-crystal silicon wafers, which makes quantum dots inside the particle with photoluminescence. Since this type of preparation is already being used in bioimaging in the U.S., for instance, there should be no problem in using it for in vivo bioimaging here.”


The research team experimented with various parameters to derive an optimal setting for the nanoparticle, manipulating the size of the particle and optimizing its energy level through the quantum confinement effect, that resulted in the design of a new pSiNP with its chemical, physical, and optical characteristics fully catalogued.


Successful in vivo bioimaging with the new particle
The merit of the new pSiNPs was demonstrated in a series of experiments involving nanoparticles treated with tumor-homing peptides injected inside the body of an animal infected with a cancerous tumor. Then the affected area was observed with TPM to see whether the treated pSiNPs would successfully target the cancer and provide a real-time in vivo bioimaging of the tumor with sufficient resolution. The experiment was a resounding success, which showed selective targeting and detailed imaging of cancerous cells inside a living body through the combination of pSiNPs and TPM.


Professor Kim said, “This research basically opened up a floodgate for numerous follow-up projects and clinical applications that can take advantage of our pSiNPs to target various diseases for bioimaging, selective delivery of therapeutic chemicals on cellular level, and much more. We, for instance, can use these particles to treat a specific cancer without harming any other cell in the body, which would drastically reduce the severe side effects usually associated with chemotherapy. Also, we can make a combination of nanoparticles and organic compounds that can diagnose diseases outside the body by analyzing saliva or phlegm.”


This research was jointly conducted by Kyung Hee University, University of California, San Diego, and Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH).

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