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Molecular profiling of single cancer cells and clinical tissue specimens with semiconductor quantum dots

Authors Yun Xing, Andrew M Smith, Amit Agrawal, Gang Ruan, Shuming Nie

Published 15 January 2007 Volume 2006:1(4) Pages 473—481

Yun Xing, Andrew M Smith, Amit Agrawal, Gang Ruan, Shuming Nie

Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry, Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA

Abstract: Semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) are a new class of fluorescent labels with broad applications in biomedical imaging, disease diagnostics, and molecular and cell biology. In comparison with organic dyes and fluorescent proteins, quantum dots have unique optical and electronic properties such as size-tunable light emission, improved signal brightness, resistance against photobleaching, and simultaneous excitation of multiple fluorescence colors. Recent advances have led to multifunctional nanoparticle probes that are highly bright and stable under complex in vitro and in vivo conditions. New designs involve encapsulating luminescent QDs with amphiphilic block copolymers, and linking the polymer coating to tumor-targeting ligands and drug-delivery functionalities. These improved QDs have opened new possibilities for real-time imaging and tracking of molecular targets in living cells, for multiplexed analysis of biomolecular markers in clinical tissue specimens, and for ultrasensitive imaging of malignant tumors in living animal models. In this article, we briefly discuss recent developments in bioaffinity QD probes and their applications in molecular profiling of individual cancer cells and clinical tissue specimens.

Keywords: nanoparticle, nanocrystal, semiconductor, cancer, tumor, tissue section, live cell