Upconversion nanoparticles and their composite nanostructures for biomedical imaging and cancer therapy
Upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs), particularly lanthanide-doped nanocrystals, which emit high energy photons under excitation by the near-infrared (NIR) light, have found potential applications in many different fields, including biomedicine. Compared with traditional down-conversion fluorescence imaging, the NIR light excited upconversion luminescence (UCL) imaging relying on UCNPs exhibits improved tissue penetration depth, higher photochemical stability, and is free of auto-fluorescence background, which promises biomedical imaging with high sensitivity. On the other hand, the unique upconversion process of UCNPs may be utilized to activate photosensitive therapeutic agents for applications in cancer treatment. Moreover, the integration of UCNPs with other functional nanostructures could result in the obtained nanocomposites having highly enriched functionalities, useful in imaging-guided cancer therapies. This review article will focus on the biomedical imaging and cancer therapy applications of UCNPs and their nanocomposites, and discuss recent advances and future prospects in this emerging field.