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Nanoscale. 2013 Jan 7;5(1):307-17. doi: 10.1039/c2nr33024e. Epub 2012 Nov 19.

InP/ZnS as a safer alternative to CdSe/ZnS core/shell quantum dots: in vitro and in vivo toxicity assessment.

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Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT), Center for Bio-Molecular Nanotechnologies@UniLe, Via Barsanti, 73010 Arnesano, Lecce, Italy.


We show that water soluble InP/ZnS core/shell QDs are a safer alternative to CdSe/ZnS QDs for biological applications, by comparing their toxicity in vitro (cell culture) and in vivo (animal model Drosophila). By choosing QDs with comparable physical and chemical properties, we find that cellular uptake and localization are practically identical for these two nanomaterials. Toxicity of CdSe/ZnS QDs appears to be related to the release of poisonous Cd(2+) ions and indeed we show that there is leaching of Cd(2+) ions from the particle core despite the two-layer ZnS shell. Since an almost identical amount of In(III) ions is observed to leach from the core of InP/ZnS QDs, their very low toxicity as revealed in this study hints at a much lower intrinsic toxicity of indium compared to cadmium.

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