Rare-earth-doped biological composites as in vivo shortwave infrared reporters

Nat Commun. 2013;4:2199. doi: 10.1038/ncomms3199.


The extension of in vivo optical imaging for disease screening and image-guided surgical interventions requires brightly emitting, tissue-specific materials that optically transmit through living tissue and can be imaged with portable systems that display data in real-time. Recent work suggests that a new window across the short-wavelength infrared region can improve in vivo imaging sensitivity over near infrared light. Here we report on the first evidence of multispectral, real-time short-wavelength infrared imaging offering anatomical resolution using brightly emitting rare-earth nanomaterials and demonstrate their applicability toward disease-targeted imaging. Inorganic-protein nanocomposites of rare-earth nanomaterials with human serum albumin facilitated systemic biodistribution of the rare-earth nanomaterials resulting in the increased accumulation and retention in tumour tissue that was visualized by the localized enhancement of infrared signal intensity. Our findings lay the groundwork for a new generation of versatile, biomedical nanomaterials that can advance disease monitoring based on a pioneering infrared imaging technique.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Infrared Rays
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Metals, Rare Earth / chemistry*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Molecular Probes* / chemical synthesis
  • Molecular Probes* / pharmacokinetics
  • Nanocomposites* / chemistry
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Optical Imaging / instrumentation
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Radio Waves
  • Serum Albumin / chemistry
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Metals, Rare Earth
  • Molecular Probes
  • Serum Albumin