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Nanoscale. 2011 Sep 1;3(9):3705-13. doi: 10.1039/c1nr10466g. Epub 2011 Jul 27.

Near-infrared (1550 nm) in vivo bioimaging based on rare-earth doped ceramic nanophosphors modified with PEG-b-poly(4-vinylbenzylphosphonate).

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Department of Materials Science, Graduate School of Pure and Applied Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tennoudai 1-1-1, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8573, Japan.


A novel poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-based block copolymer possessing a 4-vinylbenzylphosphonate repeating unit in another segment (PEG-block-poly(4-vinylbenzylphosphonate)) (PEG-b-PVBP) was designed and successfully synthesized. As a control, an end-functionalized PEG possessing a mono-phosphonate group (PEG-PO(3)H(2)) was also synthesized. The surface of near-infrared (NIR) phosphors (i.e., ytterbium (Yb) and erbium (Er) ion-codoped Y(2)O(3) nanoparticles (YNPs)) were modified with PEG-b-PVBP (PEG-YNP(b)s) and PEG-PO(3)H(2) (PEG-YNP(1)s). The adsorption of PEG-b-PVBP and PEG-PO(3)H(2) was estimated by Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) measurements and thermal gravimetric analysis (TGA). The physicochemical characteristics of the obtained YNP samples were analyzed by ζ-potential and dynamic light scattering (DLS) measurements. The ζ-potentials of YNPs modified by these polymers were close to zero, indicating the effective coverage of the YNP surface by our new PEG derivatives. However, the dispersion stability of the PEGylated YNPs was strongly affected by the structure of the PEG terminus. The average diameter of the PEG-YNP(1)s increased, and aggregates precipitated after less than 1 h in phosphate buffer saline (PBS). In contrast, the size did not change at all in the case of PEG-YNP(b)s and the dispersion in PBS was stable for over 1 week. PEG-YNP(b)s also showed high erosion resistance under acidic conditions. The multiple coordinated PVBP segment of the block copolymer on the YNP surface plays a substantial role in improving such dispersion stability. The excellent dispersion stability and strong NIR luminescence of the obtained PEG-YNP(b)s were also confirmed in fetal bovine serum (FBS) solution over 1 week. Furthermore, in vivo NIR imaging of live mice was performed, and the 1550 nm NIR emission of PEG-YNP(b)s from the organ of live mice was confirmed without dissection.

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