Microchimica Acta

, 186:231 | Cite as

Functionalized fluorescent carbon nanostructures for targeted imaging of cancer cells: a review

  • Meghdad Pirsaheb
  • Somayeh MohammadiEmail author
  • Abdollah Salimi
  • Mehrdad Payandeh
Review Article


This short review (with 72 refs.) summarizes the state of the art in fluorometric methods for targeted imaging of cancer cells and tumor tissues in order to differentiate between normal cells and cancer cells. Following an introduction into the field and after presenting an overview on the most commonly used carbon dots and graphene quantum dots, we describe methods based on peptide based targeting, aptamer based targeting, antibody based targeting, and ligand-based targeting. A concluding section summarizes the current state and challenges, and discusses future perspectives.

Graphical abstract

An overview is given on the applications of carbon dots (CDs) in target-specific imaging and differentiation of cancerous cells from normal cells. Several classes of ligands (including aptamers, peptides, antibodies), especially small molecules (such as FA)) have been reported for functionalizing of CDs.


Carbon based materials Covalent and non-covalent modification Heteroatom doping Polymer passivation Folate receptors Cell imaging Cancer cells 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the Research Council of Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences (Grant Number: 96386) for the financial support.

Compliance with ethical standards

The author(s) declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center for Environmental Determinants of Health (RCEDH)Kermanshah University of Medical SciencesKermanshahIran
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryUniversity of KurdistanSanandajIran
  3. 3.Research Center for NanotechnologyUniversity of KurdistanSanandajIran
  4. 4.Regenerative Medicine Research CenterKermanshah University of Medical SciencesKermanshahIran

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