We present the synthesis of fluorescent acrylamide nanoparticles (FANs) capable of recognizing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in buffered aqueous solutions. Within this important group, we selected naproxen, one of the 2-arylpropionic acids (profens), due to its use for the treatment of moderate pain, fever, and inflammation. The nanosensors were prepared under mild conditions of inverse microemulsion polymerization using aqueous acrylamide as the monomer and N,N′-methylenebisacrylamide as the cross-linker, employing the surfactants polyoxyethylene-4-lauryl ether (Brij®30) and sodium bis(2-ethylhexyl)sulfosuccinate in hexane. Furthermore, a fluorescent monomer, (E)-4-[4-(dimethylamino)styryl]-1-[4-(methacryloyloxymethyl)benzyl]pyridinium chloride (mDMASP) has been synthesized and incorporated into the nanoparticles. The nanosensors exhibit a broad absorbance at around 460 nm and a structureless fluorescence band with maximum at 590 nm in 0.5 M phosphate buffer (pH = 7.2). The recognition process is performed on the basis of ionic interactions which are monitored by the fluorescence increase at 590 nm upon addition of different concentrations of naproxen. The FANs show a size distribution in the range of 20–80 nm, with a hydrodynamic diameter of 34 nm. In order to assess the selectivity of the FANs, a systematic study was conducted on the effect produced by drugs and biomolecules that could interfere with the analysis of naproxen.
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We acknowledge financial support from the EU Transfer of Knowledge project “Sensor Nanoparticles for Ions and Biomolecules”, SNIB (MTKD-CT-2005-029554) and the EU Research Training Network “Nanomaterials for Application in Sensors, Catalysis and Emerging Technologies”, NASCENT (MRTN-CT-2006-033873), and from the project MO 1062/6-1 of Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.