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Quantum dot nanoparticle conjugation, characterization, and applications in neuroscience


Quantum dot are semiconducting nanoparticles that have been used for decades in a variety of applications such as solar cells, LEDs and medical imaging. Their use in the last area, however, has been extremely limited despite their potential as revolutionary new biological labeling tools. Quantum dots are much brighter and more stable than conventional fluorophores, making them optimal for high resolution imaging and long term studies. Prior work in this area involves synthesizing and chemically conjugating quantum dots to molecules of interest in-house. However this method is both time consuming and prone to human error. Additionally, non-specific binding and nanoparticle aggregation currently prevent researchers from utilizing this system to its fullest capacity. Another critical issue that has not been addressed is determining the number of ligands bound to nanoparticles, which is crucial for proper interpretation of results. In this work, methods to label fixed cells using two types of chemically modified quantum dots are studied. Reproducible non- specific artifact labeling is consistently demonstrated if antibody-quantum dot conditions are less than optimal. In order to explain this, antibodies bound to quantum dots were characterized and quantified. While other groups have qualitatively characterized antibody functionalized quantum dots using TEM, AFM, UV spectroscopy and gel electrophoresis, and in some cases have reported calculated estimates of the putative number of total antibodies bound to quantum dots, no quantitative experimental results had been reported prior to this work. The chemical functionalization and characterization of quantum dot nanocrystals achieved in this work elucidates binding mechanisms of ligands to nanoparticles and allows researchers to not only translate our tools to studies in their own areas of interest but also derive quantitative results from these studies. This research brings ease of use and increased reliability to nanoparticles in medical imaging

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