Molecular Imaging and Sensing Using Plasmonic Nanoparticles
Noble metal nanoparticles exhibit unique optical properties that are beneficial to a variety of applications, including molecular imaging. The large scattering cross sections of nanoparticles provide high contrast necessary for biomarkers. Unlike alternative contrast agents, nanoparticles provide refractive index sensitivity revealing information regarding the local cellular environment. Altering the shape and composition of the nanoparticle shifts the peak resonant wavelength of scattered light, allowing for implementation of multiple spectrally distinct tags. In this project, nanoparticles that scatter in different spectral windows are functionalized with various antibodies recognizing extra-cellular receptors integral to cancer progression. A hyperspectral imaging system is developed, allowing for visualization and spectral characterization of cells labeled with these conjugates. Various molecular imaging and microspectroscopy applications of plasmonic nanoparticles are then investigated. First, anti-EGFR gold nanospheres are shown to quantitatively measure receptor expression with similar performance to fluorescence assays. Second, anti-EGFR gold nanorods and novel anti-IGF-1R silver nanospheres are implemented to indicate local cellular refractive indices. Third, because biosensing capabilities of nanoparticle tags may be limited by plasmonic coupling, polarization mapping is investigated as a method to discern these effects. Fourth, plasmonic coupling is tested to monitor HER-2 dimerization. Experiments reveal the interparticle conformation of proximal HER-2 bound labels, required for plasmonic coupling-enhanced dielectric sensing. Fifth, all three functionalized plasmonic tags are implemented simultaneously to indicate clinically relevant cell immunophenotype information and changes in the cellular dielectric environment. Finally, flow cytometry experiments are conducted utilizing the anti-EGFR nanorod tag to demonstrate profiling of receptor expression distribution and potential increased multiplexing capability.
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