Nano Research

Article Title

Highly fluorescent dye-doped silica nanoparticles increase flow cytometry sensitivity for cancer cell monitoring


Silica nanoparticle, flow cytometry, aptamer, cell detection, polyethylene glycol, fluorophore


Early and accurate diagnosis and treatment of cancer depend on rapid, sensitive, and selective detection of tumor cells. Current diagnosis of cancers, especially leukemia, relies on histology and fl ow cytometry using single dye-labeled antibodies. However, this combination may not lead to high signal output, which can hinder detection, especially when the probes have relatively weak affi nities or when the receptor is expressed in a low concentration on the target cell surface. To solve these problems, we have developed a novel method for sensitive and rapid detection of cancer cells using dye-doped silica nanoparticles (NPs) which increases detection sensitivity in fl ow cytometry analyses between 10- and 100-fold compared to standard methods. Our NPs are ~60 nm in size and can encapsulate thousands of individual dye molecules within their matrix. We have extensively investigated surface modifi cation strategies in order to make the NPs suitable for selective detection of cancer cells using fl ow cytometry. The NPs are functionalized with polyethylene glycol (PEG) to prevent nonspecifi c interactions and with neutravidin to allow universal binding with biotinylated molecules. By virtue of their reliable and selective detection of target cancer cells, these NPs have demonstrated their promising usefulness in conventional fl ow cytometry. Moreover, they have shown low background signal, high signal enhancement, and effi cient functionalization, either with antibody- or aptamer-targeting moieties.

Graphical Abstract


Tsinghua University Press