Textured thin metal shells on metal oxide nanoparticles with strong NIR absorbance and high magnetization for imaging and therapy
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The ability of sub 100 nm nanoparticles to target and modulate the biology of cells will enable major advancements in cellular imaging and therapy in cancer and atherosclerosis. A key challenge is to load an extremely high degree of targeting, imaging, and therapeutic functionality into small, yet stable particles. A general mechanism is presented for thin autocatalytic growth on nanoparticle substrates (TAGS), as demonstrated for a homologous series of < 5 nm textured Au coatings on < 42 nm iron oxide cluster cores. Very low Au supersaturation levels are utilized to prevent commonly encountered excessive autocatalytic growth that otherwise produce thick shells. The degree of separation of nucleation to form the seeds from growth is utilized to control the morphology and uniformity of the thin Au coatings. The thin and asymmetric Au shells produce strong near infrared (NIR) absorbance with a cross section of ~10⁻¹⁴ m², whereas the high magnetic content per particles provides strong r2 spin-spin magnetic relaxivity of 200 mM⁻¹s⁻¹. TAGS may be generalized to a wide variety of substrates and high energy coatings to form core-shell nanoparticles of interest in a variety of applications as diverse as catalysis and bionanotechnology. High uptake of the nanoclusters by macrophages is facilitated by the dextran coating, producing intense NIR contrast both in cell culture and an in vivo rabbit model of atherosclerosis. A novel conjugation technique further allows covalent binding of anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) monoclonal antibody (Ab) to the nanoclusters for highly selective targeting to EGFR over expressing cancer cells. AlexaFluor 488 tagged Ab nanocluster conjugates were prepared to correlate the number of conjugated Abs with the hydrodynamic diameter. The high targeting efficacy was evaluated by dark field reflectance imaging and atomic absorbance spectrometry (AAS). Colocalization of the nanoparticles by dual mode in-vitro imaging with dark field and fluorescence microscopy demonstrates the Abs remained attached to the Au surfaces. The extremely high curvature of the Au shells with features below 5 nm influence the spacing and orientations of the Abs on the surface, which has the potential to have a marked effect on biological pathways within cells. These targeted small multifunctional nanoclusters may solve some key molecular imaging challenges for cancer and atherosclerosis.