Gold nanocages covered by smart polymers for controlled release with near-infrared light

Photosensitive caged compounds have enhanced our ability to address the complexity of biological systems by generating effectors with remarkable spatial/temporal resolutions1, 2, 3. The caging effect is typically removed by photolysis with ultraviolet light to liberate the bioactive species. Although this technique has been successfully applied to many biological problems, it suffers from a number of intrinsic drawbacks. For example, it requires dedicated efforts to design and synthesize a precursor compound for each effector. The ultraviolet light may cause damage to biological samples and is suitable only for in vitro studies because of its quick attenuation in tissue4. Here we address these issues by developing a platform based on the photothermal effect of gold nanocages. Gold nanocages represent a class of nanostructures with hollow interiors and porous walls5. They can have strong absorption (for the photothermal effect) in the near-infrared while maintaining a compact size. When the surface of a gold nanocage is covered with a smart polymer, the pre-loaded effector can be released in a controllable fashion using a near-infrared laser. This system works well with various effectors without involving sophisticated syntheses, and is well suited for in vivo studies owing to the high transparency of soft tissue in the near-infrared region6.

Department of Biomedical Engineering, Washington University, St Louis, Missouri 63130, USA
These three authors contributed equally to this project
Correspondence to: Younan Xia1 e-mail:

source: Nature Materials 8, 935 – 939 (2009)


~ by vascoteixeira on January 2, 2010.

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