Prolonged dye release from mesoporous silica-based imaging probes facilitates long-term optical tracking of cell populations in vivo

J.M. Rosenholm, T. Gulin-Sarfraz, V. Mamaeva, R. Niemi, E. Özliseli, D. Desai, D. Antfolk, E. von Haartman, D. Lindberg, N. Prabhakar, T. Näreoja, C.M. Sahlgren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Nanomedicine is gaining ground worldwide in therapy and diagnostics. Novel nanoscopic imaging probes serve as imaging tools for studying dynamic biological processes in vitro and in vivo. To allow detectability in the physiological environment, the nanostructure-based probes need to be either inherently detectable by biomedical imaging techniques, or serve as carriers for existing imaging agents. In this study, the potential of mesoporous silica nanoparticles carrying commercially available fluorochromes as self-regenerating cell labels for long-term cellular tracking is investigated. The particle surface is organically modified for enhanced cellular uptake, the fluorescence intensity of labeled cells is followed over time both in vitro and in vivo. The particles are not exocytosed and particles which escaped cells due to cell injury or death are degraded and no labeling of nontargeted cell populations are observed. The labeling efficiency is significantly improved as compared to that of quantum dots of similar emission wavelength. Labeled human breast cancer cells are xenotransplanted in nude mice, and the fluorescent cells can be detected in vivo for a period of 1 month. Moreover, ex vivo analysis reveals fluorescently labeled metastatic colonies in lymph node and rib, highlighting the capability of the developed probes for tracking of metastasis. Mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs) as carriers for optical imaging agents facilitate long-term monitoring of tumor progression and tracking of metastatic cells. MSNs are surface modified for efficient cellular labeling and incorporated with commercially available, affordable fluorescent dyes via different means. The optimized MSN-dye formulation preserves fluorescence intensity signal retention in vivo for a period of 1 month.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1578-1592
JournalSmall : Nano Micro
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2016


  • Cellular tracking
  • Fluorescent probes
  • Imaging
  • Mesoporous materials
  • Silica


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