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Glowing Mice Reveal Where Quantum Dots Go

932 Glowing Mice Reveal Where Quantum Dots Go
Image depicting skin discoloration after mice were injected with one of three distinct quantum dot formulations / Edward A. Sykes & Qin Dai
Nanoparticles are being used in everything it seems. From quick cancer diagnoses and West Nile virus detection to water pollution testing and creating bionic plants. Are they bad for us, and where do they go? A new study shows how exposure to nanoparticles can be visualized in the skin. And researchers made what appears to be neon, glowing mice as a result. 
We don’t know the long-term health effects of chronic nanoparticle exposure, though researchers do have concerns. Right now, the only way to quantify internal nanoparticle distribution requires isolating and sampling internal tissues.
To see if there’s a less invasive way, a University of Toronto team led by Warren Chan looked at the behavior of nanoparticles in mice. They injected gold nanoparticles (15 nanometers in diameter) and Trilite Quantum Dots with fluorescent emissions (525, 575 and 667 nm) intravenously into five to six-week-old female CD-1 nude athymic mice (these hairless mice have inhibited immune systems).
The researchers found that they accumulate -- and can be quite plainly observed -- through the skin. Different nanoparticles are visible through the skin under ambient or ultraviolet light: Mice injected with high doses of gold nanoparticles have visibly blue skin while quantum dot-treated mice fluoresce under UV light. 
They also noticed a direct correlation between the concentration of nanoparticles found in the skin and both the injected dose as well as the accumulations in other organs, like the liver and spleen.  
The findings could help predict the behavior of nanoparticles in the body.
The work was published in Nature Communications this week.
Images: Edward A. Sykes & Qin Dai


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