Mesoporous silica particles as a lipophilic drug vehicle investigated by fluorescence lifetime imaging
Three types of new label-free fluorescent mesoporous silica micro- and nanoparticles were prepared by controlled thermal decomposition of carboamino groups linked on the surface without compromising the drug loading capacity of the silica particles. Clofazimine, a lipophilic antibiotic drug with excellent in vitro activity against mycobacterium tuberculosis, was encapsulated inside these fluorescent particles to obtain multifunctional drug carriers of interest in the field of theranostics. The morphological features together with the photophysical properties of both powders and aqueous suspensions are described. The photophysical properties seem to be independent of the mesoporosity features but correlate with the residual carboamino functionalization. The particles are endowed with emission in the visible region and have fluorescence lifetimes of up to 9.0 ns that can be easily discriminated from intrinsic biological fluorescence. Furthermore, their fluorescence lifetime offers a promising tool to follow the release of the encapsulated drug which is not possible by means of simple fluorescence intensity. We report here a novel attractive theranostic platform enabling monitoring of drug release in biological environments by means of fluorescence lifetime.