Quantum dots: bright and versatile in vitro and in vivo fluorescence imaging biosensors

Chem Soc Rev. 2015 Jul 21;44(14):4792-834. doi: 10.1039/c4cs00532e.


Semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) have become important fluorescent probes for in vitro and in vivo bioimaging research. Their nanoparticle surfaces for versatile bioconjugation, their adaptable photophysical properties for multiplexed detection, and their superior stability for longer investigation times are the main advantages of QDs compared to other fluorescence imaging agents. Here, we review the recent literature dealing with the design and application of QD-bioconjugates for advanced in vitro and in vivo imaging. After a short summary of QD preparation and their most important properties, different QD-based imaging applications will be discussed from the technological and the biological point of view, ranging from super-resolution microscopy and single-particle tracking over in vitro cell and tissue imaging to in vivo investigations. A substantial part of the review will focus on multifunctional applications, in which the QD fluorescence is combined with drug or gene delivery towards theranostic approaches or with complementary technologies for multimodal imaging. We also briefly discuss QD toxicity issues and give a short outlook on future directions of QD-based bioimaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Quantum Dots*