808 nm driven Nd3+-sensitized upconversion nanostructures for photodynamic therapy and simultaneous fluorescence imaging†
The in vivo biological applications of upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) prefer excitation at 700–850 nm, instead of 980 nm, due to the absorption of water. Recent approaches in constructing robust Nd3+ doped UCNPs with 808 nm excitation properties rely on a thick Nd3+ sensitized shell. However, for the very important and popular Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based applications, such as photodynamic therapy (PDT) or switchable biosensors, this type of structure has restrictions resulting in a poor energy transfer. In this work, we have designed a NaYF4:Yb/Ho@NaYF4:Nd@NaYF4 core–shell–shell nanostructure. We have proven that this optimal structure balances the robustness of the upconversion emission and the FRET efficiency for FRET-based bioapplications. A proof of the concept was demonstrated for photodynamic therapy and simultaneous fluorescence imaging of HeLa cells triggered by 808 nm light, where low heating and a high PDT efficacy were achieved.