Cadmium-free CuInS2/ZnS quantum dots for sentinel lymph node imaging with reduced toxicity

ACS Nano. 2010 May 25;4(5):2531-8. doi: 10.1021/nn901421v.


Semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) could significantly impact the performance of biomedical near-infrared (NIR) imaging by providing fluorescent probes that are brighter and more photostable than conventional organic dyes. However, the toxicity of the components of NIR emitting II-VI and IV-VI QDs that have been made so far (Cd, Hg, Te, Pb, etc.) has remained a major obstacle to the clinical use of QDs. Here, we present the synthesis of CuInS(2)/ZnS core/shell QDs emitting in the NIR ( approximately 800 nm) with good quantum yield and stability even after transfer into water. We demonstrate the potential of these QDs by imaging two regional lymph nodes (LNs) in vivo in mice. We then compare the inflammatory response of the axillary LN induced by different doses of CuInS(2)/ZnS and CdTeSe/CdZnS QDs and show a clear difference in acute local toxicity, the onset of inflammation only occurring at a 10 times more concentrated dose for CuInS(2)/ZnS QDs than for their Cd-containing counterparts.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / cytology
  • Animals
  • Cadmium / chemistry
  • Color
  • Copper / chemistry*
  • Copper / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Indium / chemistry*
  • Indium / toxicity*
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Infrared Rays
  • Lymph Nodes / metabolism*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / diagnosis
  • Mice
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Photochemical Processes
  • Quantum Dots*
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
  • Solubility
  • Sulfides / chemical synthesis
  • Sulfides / chemistry*
  • Sulfides / toxicity*
  • Surface Properties
  • Water / chemistry
  • Zinc Compounds / chemical synthesis
  • Zinc Compounds / chemistry*
  • Zinc Compounds / toxicity*


  • Sulfides
  • Zinc Compounds
  • Cadmium
  • Indium
  • Water
  • Copper
  • zinc sulfide