Engineering ultrasmall water-soluble gold and silver nanoclusters for biomedical applications
Gold and silver nanoclusters or Au/Ag NCs with core sizes smaller than 2 nm have been an attractive frontier of nanoparticle research because of their unique physicochemical properties such as well-defined molecular structure, discrete electronic transitions, quantized charging, and strong luminescence. As a result of these unique properties, ultrasmall size, and good biocompatibility, Au/Ag NCs have great potential for a variety of biomedical applications, such as bioimaging, biosensing, antimicrobial agents, and cancer therapy. In this feature article, we will first discuss some critical biological considerations, such as biocompatibility and renal clearance, of Au/Ag NCs that are applied for biomedical applications, leading to some design criteria for functional Au/Ag NCs in the biological settings. According to these biological considerations, we will then survey some efficient synthetic strategies for the preparation of protein- and peptide-protected Au/Ag NCs with an emphasis on our recent contributions in this fast-growing field. In the last part, we will highlight some potential biomedical applications of these protein- and peptide-protected Au/Ag NCs. It is believed that with continued efforts to understand the interactions of biomolecule-protected Au/Ag NCs with the biological systems, scientists can largely realize the great potential of Au/Ag NCs for biomedical applications, which could finally pave their way towards clinical use.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2014 Emerging Investigators