We present the synthesis and characterization of monodisperse, sub-micron poly(styrene) (PS) particles loaded with up to and including 107 lanthanide (Ln) ions per particle. These particles have been synthesized by seeded emulsion polymerization with a mixture of monomer and a pre-formed Ln complex, and analyzed on a particle-by-particle basis by a unique inductively coupled plasma mass cytometer. Seed particles were prepared by surfactant-free emulsion polymerization (SFEP) to obtain large particle sizes in aqueous media. Extensive surface acid functionality was introduced using the acid-functional initiator ACVA, either during seed latex synthesis or in the second stage of polymerization. The loading of particles with three different Ln ions (Eu, Tb, and Ho) has proven to be close to 100% efficient on an individual and combined basis. Covalent attachment of metal-tagged peptides and proteins such as Neutravidin to the particle surface was shown to be successful and the number of bound species can be readily determined. We believe these particles can serve as precursors for multiplexed, bead-based bio-assays utilizing mass cytometric detection.
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