Gold Nanocages: From Synthesis to Theranostic Applications

by Xia, Younan; Li, Weiyang; Cobley, Claire M.; Chen, Jingyi; Xia, Xiaohu; Zhang, Qiang; Yang, Miaoxin; Cho, Eun Chul; Brown, Paige K.


Gold nanostructures have garnered considerable attention in recent years for their potential to facilitate both the diagnosis and treatment of cancer through their advantageous chemical and physical properties. The key feature of Au nanostructures for enabling this diverse array of biomedical applications is their attractive optical properties, specifically the scattering and absorption of light at resonant wavelengths due to the excitation of plasmon oscillations. This phenomenon Is commonly known as localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) and is the source of the ruby red color of conventional Au colloids. The resonant wavelength depends on the size, shape, and geometry of the nanostructures, providing a set of knobs to manipulate the optical properties as needed. For in vivo applications, especially when optical excitation or transduction Is involved, the LSPR peaks of the Au nanostructures have to be tuned to the transparent window of soft tissues in the near-infrared (NIR) region (from 700 to 900 nm) to maximize the penetration depth. Gold nanocages represent one class of nanostructures with tunable LSPR peaks in the NIR region. These versatile nanostructures, characterized by hollow interiors and ultrathin, porous walls, can be prepared in relatively large quantities using a remarkably simple procedure based on the galvanic replacement between Ag nanocubes and aqueous chloroauric add. The LSPR peaks of Au nanocages can be readily and precisely tuned to any wavelength in the NIR region by controlling their size, wall thickness, or both. Other significant features of Au nanocages that make them particularly intriguing materials for biomedical applications include their compact sizes, large absorption cross sections (almost five orders of magnitude greater than those of conventional organic dyes), and their bio-inertness, as well as a robust and straightforward procedure for surface modification based on Au-thiolate chemistry. In this Account, we present some of the most recent advances in the use of Au nanocages for a broad range of theranostic applications. First, we describe their use as tracers for tracking by multiphoton luminescence. Gold nanocages can also serve as contrast agents for photoacoustic (PA) and mutimodal (PA/fluorescence) imaging. In addition, these nanostructures an be used as photothermal agents for the selective destruction of cancerous or diseased tissue. Finally, Au nanocages can serve as drug delivery vehicles for controlled and localized release in response to external stimuli such as NIR radiation or high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU).

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