Ultrabright NIR fluorescent mesoporous silica nanoparticles†
Near-infrared (NIR) water-dispersible fluorescent tags are of big importance for biomedical imaging. Bright, stable, biocompatible NIR fluorescent nanoparticles have great translation potential to improve diagnosis of early stages of different diseases. Here we report on the synthesis of exceptionally bright (“ultrabright”) fluorescent meso(nano)porous silica nanoparticles of 28 ± 3 nm in diameter. The NIR fluorescent dye LS277 is encapsulated inside these silica nanoparticles. The wavelengths of the maximum excitation/fluorescence of the particles are 804/815 nm. The absorptivity coefficient of the particles is 2.1 × 108 M−1 cm−1 at 805 nm and the quantum yield of the dye increased by a factor of 5 after encapsulating to 1.5%. The fluorescent brightness of these particles is more than 2000× higher than the fluorescence of one molecule of LS277 in water. When exited in NIR spectral region (>700 nm), these particles are up to 4× brighter than QD800 commercial quantum dots emitting at 800 nm. We demonstrate that the synthesized NIR mesoporous silica nanoparticles easily internalize 4T1luc breast tumor cells, and remain bright for more than 9 weeks whereas the dye is completely bleached by that time.