This work demonstrates a simple route for synthesizing multi-functional fluorescent nanodiamond-gold/silver nanoparticles. The fluorescent nanodiamond is formed by the surface passivation of poly(ethylene glycol) bis(3-aminopropyl) terminated. Urchin-like gold/silver nanoparticles can be obtained via one-pot synthesis, and combined with each other via further thiolation of nanodiamond. The morphology of the nanodiamond-gold/silver nanoparticles thus formed was identified herein by high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, and clarified using diffraction patterns. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy clearly revealed the surface functionalization of the nanoparticles. The fluorescence of the materials with high photo stability was examined by high power laser irradiation and long-term storage at room temperature. To develop the bio-recognition of fluorescent nanodiamond-gold/silver nanoparticles, pre-modified transferrin was conjugated with the gold/silver nanoparticles, and the specificity and activity were confirmed in vitro using human hepatoma cell line (J5). The cellular uptake analysis that was conducted using flow cytometry and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry exhibited that twice as many transferrin-modified nanoparticles as bare nanoparticles were engulfed, revealing the targeting and ease of internalization of the human hepatoma cell. Additionally, the in situ monitoring of photothermal therapeutic behavior reveals that the nanodiamond-gold/silver nanoparticles conjugated with transferrin was more therapeutic than the bare nanodiamond-gold/silver materials, even when exposed to a less energetic laser source. Ultimately, this multi-functional material has great potential for application in simple synthesis. It is non-cytotoxic, supports long-term tracing and can be used in highly efficient photothermal therapy against cancer cells.
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