Posted in | Nanomaterials | Nanoanalysis

Minuscule Rubies and Diamonds Improve Imaging at the Nanoscale

Recent research has discovered that tiny rubies and diamonds could be the ideal nanomaterials for researchers focusing on exploring molecular and cellular processes inside the living body.

A team of researchers, headed by Dr Philipp Reineck from the School of Science, at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) tested the diamond and ruby particles that are more than 1,000 times smaller in size compared to the diameter of a strand of hair. This test was performed together with other nanoparticles for application in biological imaging. The findings highlighted that these particles contain higher stability degrees that is important for obtaining successful imaging.

Fluorescing nanoparticles can be used as ‘tiny lamps’ that when placed in the body, are able to light up cells and their internal processes, We shine light at the biological sample of interest in a very controlled way and the nanomaterials send light back, helping us to see very specifically what is happening, right down to a molecule and protein level. This is the area we’re focused on, exploring how the ‘very small’ can help us in answering some of the very big questions in biology.

Dr Philipp Reineck, School of Science, CNBP

The journal Advanced Optical Materials features a study in which the researchers compared seven varieties of fluorescent nanomaterials that include semiconductor quantum dots, gold nanoclusters, organic dyes, carbon dots, fluorescent beads and the nano sized rubies and diamonds.

Characteristics are analyzed for included levels of fluorescence brightness and photostability (resistance to change under the influence of light), as well as for how effectively these new materials can be imaged using conventional microscopes used in biology.

"Nanomaterials have widely differing characteristics and we need to determine which materials will work best in which imaging application," Reineck said.

"What our study clearly shows is that nanodiamonds and nanorubies are excellent materials for long-term biological imaging.

"These two materials provide acceptable levels of brightness and the best photostability by far, when compared to the other materials that were tested."

In other research findings, Reineck identified clear trade-offs in most of the examined nanomaterials.

We found that ideal levels of photostability generally mean a sacrifice in brightness and vice versa. For example, during testing, the organic dyes and carbon dots were much brighter than the rubies and the diamonds - but photobleaching (or fading) was a major issue, impacting their practical imaging use.

Dr Philipp Reineck, School of Science, CNBP

Reineck next aims at working closely with medical researchers and biologists within the CNBP in order to produce only specific nanomaterials that can be applied with the required reliability and precision that will help enhance real-world biological environments.

In the future, these materials will be used in CNBP’s key research areas related to chronic pain, fertility and heart disease.

"The real treasure isn’t the rubies or the diamonds," Reineck said.

"It will be the way in which we use these materials to shed new light on the incredibly complex processes taking place in the living body, helping us understand a whole host of matters relating to health, wellbeing and disease."

The Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) is an Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence, with research focused nodes at the RMIT University, Macquarie University and the University of Adelaide.

The CNBP is a $40m initiative that focuses on developing new light-based imaging and sensing tools capable of measuring the inner workings of cells present in the living body.

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