Small multifunctional nanoclusters (Nanoroses) for targeted cellular imaging and therapy

Li Leo Ma, Marc D. Feldman, Jasmine M. Tam, Amit S. Paranjape, Kiran K. Cheruku, Timothy A. Larson, Justina O. Tam, Davis R. Ingram, Vidia Paramita, Joseph W. Villard, James T. Jenkins, Tianyi Wang, Geoffrey D. Clarke, Reto Asmis, Konstantin Sokolov, Bysani Chandrasekar, Thomas E. Milner, Keith P. Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


The ability of 20-50 nm nanoparticles to target and modulate the biology of specific types 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. Herein we report ∼30 nm stable uniformly sized near-infrared (NIR) active, superparamagnetic nanoclusters formed by kinetically controlled self-assembly of gold-coated iron oxide nanoparticles. The controlled assembly of nanocomposite particles into clusters with small primary particle spacings produces collective responses of the electrons that shift the absorbance into the NIR region. The nanoclusters of ∼70 iron oxide primary particles with thin gold coatings display intense NIR (700-850 nm) absorbance with a cross section of ∼10-14 m2. Because of the thin gold shells with an average thickness of only 2 nm, the r2 spin-spin magnetic relaxivity is 219 mM-1 s-1, an order of magnitude larger than observed for typical iron oxide particles with thicker gold shells. Despite only 12% by weight polymeric stabilizer, the particle size and NIR absorbance change very little in deionized water over 8 months. High uptake of the nanoclusters by macrophages is facilitated by the dextran coating, producing intense NIR contrast in dark field and hyperspectral microscopy, both in cell culture and an in vivo rabbit model of atherosclerosis. Small nanoclusters with optical, magnetic, and therapeutic functionality, designed by assembly of nanoparticle building blocks, offer broad opportunities for targeted cellular imaging, therapy, and combined imaging and therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2686-2696
Number of pages11
JournalACS Nano
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 22 2009


  • Cancer
  • Gold
  • Iron oxide
  • MRI
  • Macrophage targeted imaging
  • Nanocluster
  • Near-infrared
  • Therosclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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