Carbon dot-assisted luminescence of singlet oxygen: the generation dynamics but not the cumulative amount of singlet oxygen is responsible for the photodynamic therapy efficacy†
A novel carbon dot-based luminescence probe for singlet oxygen (1O2) with a conventional optical detector has been implemented through the specific formation of electronically excited carbonyls from the breakdown of unstable endoperoxide intermediates, and its application in the real-time in vivo monitoring of 1O2 in photodynamic therapy (PDT) is achieved. More attractively, the relationship between the dynamics details of photosensitizer-generated 1O2 and the PDT efficacy has been established through a modified multiple-target survival model, enabling a direct and easy estimate of the surviving fraction of tumor cells from the generation dynamics of 1O2. Both in vitro and in vivo therapy results revealed that the rapid generation dynamics of 1O2 rather than its cumulative amount is responsible for better treatment efficacy in PDT. Overall, the deeper insight into the important roles of the generation dynamics of 1O2 in the PDT efficacy is irreplaceably advantageous in substantially reduced risks from deleterious treatment-related side effects by screening advanced photosensitizers and determining the light exposure end point.