Degradation of ZnGa2O4:Cr3+ luminescent nanoparticles in lysosomal-like medium†
The ultimate goal of in vivo imaging is to provide safe tools to probe the inside of a body in order to obtain pathological information, monitor activities, and examine disease progression or regression. In this context zinc gallate doped with chromium III (ZGO) nanoparticles with persistent luminescence properties have been previously developed, and their biodistribution as well as in vitro toxicity were evaluated. However, to date, nothing is known about their potential transformations in biological media, which may hinder their biomedical applications. In order to know if these nanoparticles could degrade, the present work consists of studying their fate over time depending on both their coating and the aqueous media in which they are dispersed. ZGO nanoparticles have been dispersed in three different aqueous solutions for up to 90 days and characterized by numerous techniques. Among the evaluated dispersion media, Artificial Lysosomal Fluid (ALF) mimicking the intracellular lysosome environment elicited significant degradation of ZGO nanoparticles. The chelating agents present in ALF have proved to play a major role in the degradation of the ZGO, by stabilizing the nanoparticles and increasing the contact. An important time decrease of the luminescence properties has also been observed, which correlated with the release of ions from ZGO nanoparticles as well as their decreasing size. This information is valuable since it indicates, for the first time, the long-term degradation of persistent luminescent nanoprobes in an in vivo like model medium. Therefore, possible elimination of the imaging probes after in vivo preclinical applications could be foreseen.