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A Journal on Biotechnology and Molecular Biology

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Minerva Biotecnologica 2009 March;21(1):37-52

language: English

Quantum dots for cancer molecular imaging

Zrazhevskiy P., Gao X.

Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington Seattle, WA, USA


Current medical practice and biomedical research are quickly moving towards a qualitatively new stage – personalized medicine – which aims at addressing individual diseases in a pathology-specific and patient-specific manner. Such transformation is driven by increasing need in personalized diagnostics and therapy in all areas of medicine, and is especially sought after in treating cancer. While conventional biomedical techniques suffer from significant limitations in characterizing cancer on the molecular level, nanotechnology introduces novel tools for molecular imaging and targeted therapy. Among these, semiconductor nanoparticles (quantum dots, or QDs) represent a class of fluorescent probes that have already shown their utility in conventional biomolecular and cellular imaging applications (e.g. cell and tissue staining, Western blot, ELISA, etc.). Moreover, novel applications of in vivo fluorescence imaging, live cell single-molecule tracking, and combined drug delivery and imaging are becoming available through utilization of QD bioconjugates. Unique photo-physical properties, such as size-tunable and spectrally narrow light emission, simultaneous excitation of multiple colors, improved brightness, resistance to photobleaching, and extremely large Stokes shift, make QDs well suited for sensitive quantitative molecular profiling of cancer cells and tissues both in vitro and in vivo. Such functionality holds tremendous promise for unraveling the complex gene expression profiles of cancers improving our understanding of cancer patho-physiology and opening doors towards accurate clinical diagnosis and personalized therapy.

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