Cadmium selenide (CdSe) based quantum dots modified with polyethylene glycol and chemically linked to interleukin-13 (IL13) were prepared with the aim of identifying the high affinity receptor (IL13Rα2) which is expressed in glioma stem cells and exosomes secreted by these cancer stem cells. IL13 conjugated quantum dots (IL13QD) were thoroughly characterized for their physicochemical properties including particle size and surface morphology. Furthermore, the specific binding of the IL13QD to glioma cells and to glioma stem cells (GSC) was verified using a competitive binding study. The exosomes were isolated from the GSC conditioned medium and the expression of IL13Rα2 in the GSC and exosomes was verified. The binding property of IL13QD to the tumor associated exosomes was initially confirmed by transmission electron microscopy. The force of attraction between the quantum dots and U251 glioma cells and the exosomes was investigated by atomic force microscopy, which indicated a higher force of binding interaction between the IL13QD and IL13Rα2 expressing glioma cells and exosomes secreted by glioma stem cells. Flow cytometry of the IL13QD and exosomes from the culture media and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of patients with glioma tumors indicated a distinctly populated complex pattern different from that of non-targeted quantum dots and bovine serum albumin (BSA) conjugated quantum dots confirming specific binding potential of the IL13QD to the tumor associated exosomes. The results of this study demonstrate that IL13QD can serve as an ex vivo marker for glioma stem cells and exosomes that can inform diagnosis and prognosis of patients harboring malignant disease. Statement of Significance Functionalized quantum dots are flexible semiconductor nanomaterials which have an immense application in biomedical research. In particular, when they are functionalized with biomolecules like proteins or antibodies, they have the specialized ability to detect the expression of receptors and antigens in cells and tissues. In this study we designed a cytokine (interleukin-13) functionalized quantum dot to detect a cancer associated receptor expressed in cancer stem cells and the extracellular vesicles (exosomes) secreted by the cancer cells themselves. The binding pattern of these cytokine modified quantum dots to the cancer stem cells and exosomes alters the physical properties of the complex in the fixed and suspended form. This altered binding pattern can be monitored by a variety of techniques, including transmission electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy and flow cytometry, and subsequent characterization of this quantum dot binding profile provides useful data that can be utilized as a fingerprint to detect cancer disease progression. This type of functionalized quantum dot fingerprint is especially useful for invasive cancers including brain and other metastatic cancers and may allow for earlier detection of disease progression or recurrence, thus saving the lives of patients suffering from this devastating disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-213
Number of pages9
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Aug 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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