Cheng Lab

Theranostic Nanoparticles

The integration of nanotechnology with molecular biology and medicine has resulted in active development of an emerging research area, namely nanobiotechnology. This research offers exciting and abundant opportunities for discovering new materials and tools for biomedicine. Recent advancements in functional nanomaterials offer to improve detection sensitivity and specificity in molecular imaging. Functional nanomaterial-based molecular probes, namely nanoprobes, could target tumors either through the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect of the tumor microvasculature or by the specific binding with tumor-associated biomarkers such as tumor cell receptors, tumor extracellular matrix and enzymes. A variety of nanoprobes have been prepared, evaluated and applied in various imaging modalities including: fluorescence, MRI, radionuclide, Raman and photoacoustic imaging.  Examples of probes include gold (Au) nanoparticles (nano-shells, nano-rods and nano-cages) or single wall carbon nanotubes (SWNT) for photoacoustic imaging based on heating effects; magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles for MRI; and fluorescent nanoparticles for in vivo fluorescence imaging. We are particularly interested in developing bionanotechnology for cancer early detection and image guided therapy. The nanoparticles used in our research include near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) quantum dots, next generation iron oxide nanoparticles, etc. (Figure 1)

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