Research Highlight

Glowing, magnetic nanoprobes image cancer cells

doi:10.1038/nindia.2016.138 Published online 21 October 2016

Researchers have synthesized luminescent and magnetic nanorods that could be used as probes for imaging and nanocarriers for delivering drugs to cancer cells, including those of the breast1.

Existing bioimaging techniques use fluorescent organic dyes whose efficiencies diminish after several cycles of cell tracking. Alternative methods, such as using cadmium selenide nanoparticles, are toxic to healthy cells.

The researchers synthesized the luminomagnetic nanorods using europium-doped gadolinium oxide and explored their bioimaging and drug-delivery potential in two human breast cancer cells and in mice. 

After overnight incubation with the nanorods, the cancer cells emitted red fluorescence, indicating the presence of the nanorods within. When the mice were injected with the nanorods, cells in all major organs including the brain showed fluorescence. This suggests that the nanorods could be utilized to ferry drugs to the brain by crossing the blood-brain barrier efficiently.

The mice treated with the nanorods did not lose weight and retained their normal activities during the entire experimental period, leading researchers to believe that the nanorods are biocompatible and non-toxic to mammalian cells.

“These nanorods could potentially be used to develop next-generation nanocarriers for delivering pharmacological agents to target cells,” says lead researcher Bipin Kumar Gupta from the CSIR-National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi.


1. Gupta, B. K. et al. Bifunctional luminomagnetic rare-earth nanorods for high-contrast bioimaging nanoprobes. Sci. Rep. (2016) doi:10.1038/srep32401