A nanoparticle-based strategy for the imaging of a broad range of tumours by nonlinear amplification of microenvironment signals

Yiguang Wang, Kejin Zhou, Gang Huang, Christopher Hensley, Xiaonan Huang, Xinpeng Ma, Tian Zhao, Baran D. Sumer, Ralph J. Deberardinis, Jinming Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

392 Scopus citations


Stimuli-responsive nanomaterials are increasingly important in a variety of applications such as biosensing, molecular imaging, drug delivery and tissue engineering. For cancer detection, a paramount challenge still exists in the search for methods that can illuminate tumours universally regardless of their genotypes and phenotypes. Here we capitalized on the acidic, angiogenic tumour microenvironment to achieve the detection of tumour tissues in a wide variety of mouse cancer models. This was accomplished using ultra pH-sensitive fluorescent nanoprobes that have tunable, exponential fluorescence activation on encountering subtle, physiologically relevant pH transitions. These nanoprobes were silent in the circulation, and then strongly activated (>300-fold) in response to the neovasculature or to the low extracellular pH in tumours. Thus, we have established non-toxic, fluorescent nanoreporters that can nonlinearly amplify tumour microenvironmental signals, permitting the identification of tumour tissue independently of histological type or driver mutation, and detection of acute treatment responses much more rapidly than conventional imaging approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-212
Number of pages9
JournalNature Materials
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Chemistry(all)

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