Nanoparticles and intracellular applications of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy
Surface-enhanced Raman spectrocopy (SERS) offers ultrasensitive vibrational fingerprinting at the nanoscale. Its non-destructive nature affords an ideal tool for interrogation of the intracellular environment, detecting the localisation of biomolecules, delivery and monitoring of therapeutics and for characterisation of complex cellular processes at the molecular level. Innovations in nanotechnology have produced a wide selection of novel, purpose-built plasmonic nanostructures capable of high SERS enhancement for intracellular probing while microfluidic technologies are being utilised to reproducibly synthesise nanoparticle (NP) probes at large scale and in high throughput. Sophisticated multivariate analysis techniques unlock the wealth of previously unattainable biomolecular information contained within large and multidimensional SERS datasets. Thus, with suitable combination of experimental techniques and analytics, SERS boasts enormous potential for cell based assays and to expand our understanding of the intracellular environment. In this review we trace the pathway to utilisation of nanomaterials for intracellular SERS. Thus we review and assess nanoparticle synthesis methods, their toxicity and cell interactions before presenting significant developments in intracellular SERS methodologies and how identified challenges can be addressed.