Highly photostable nanogels for fluorescence-based theranostics

Dipendra Gyawali, Jimin P. Kim, Jian Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


A novel photo-crosslinkable nanogel is prepared from a biodegradable polymer template with intrinsic photoluminescence and high photostability. The fluorescent nanogels display excellent biodegradability and cytocompatibility owed to the facile synthesis scheme involving a solvent- and surfactant-free one-pot reaction, derived entirely from biocompatible monomers citric acid, maleic acid, L-cysteine, and poly(ethylene glycol). The resultant nanogels are less than 200 nm in diameter with a narrow size distribution and monodispersity, and demonstrate long-term structural stability in biological buffer for two weeks. To gauge potential in theranostic applications, the fluorescent nanogels were surface functionalized with biologically active RGD peptides and encapsulated with active anti-cancer drug Doxorubicin, resulting in a pH-responsive controlled drug release in acidic pH resembling tumor environments. The strong fluorescence of the nanogels enabled tracking of targeted drug delivery, showing that drug-loaded nanogels homed into the cytoplasmic regions of prostate cancer cells to significantly induce cell death. These photo-crosslinkable and biodegradable nanogels pose as a strong candidate for theranostic medicine, demonstrating versatile functionalization, high stability in biological buffers, and capacity for real-time fluorescence-based monitoring of targeted drug delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-47
Number of pages9
JournalBioactive Materials
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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