Niobium oxide doped with Tm3+ and Gd3+ ions for multimodal imaging in biology

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The development of new imaging agents able to differentiate tissue, organs, or pathologies more efficiently and presenting good biocompatibility motivates new studies due to its huge importance in the medical field. On the another hand, near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent probes offer advantages such as very high sensitivity, high photon penetration, low-light scattering, and minimal autofluorescence from living tissues, whereas magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offers better resolution. In this context, this work aimed to obtain particles based on niobium oxide doped with Gd3+ (1, 6, and 10%) and Tm3+ (3%) by the nonhydrolytic sol–gel to be applied as contrast agents as well as nanoprobes for biolabelling. The structure, luminescent properties, and T1/T2 relaxivity behavior were investigated using scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, fluorimeter, FTIR and Raman spectroscopies, dynamic light scattering, and MRI techniques.

The T1 images, no contrast properties can be evidenced which is not surprising for Gd nanoparticles bigger than 10 nm. The T2 image, it can be seen that the signal decreases (increase of T2 contrast properties) as the NPs concentration increases.


  • The nonhydrolytic sol–gel route is a simple methodology to obtain different hosts for applications in nanomedicine.

  • Niobium oxide doped with gadolinium doped into can be obtained by the nonhydrolytic sol–gel methodology.

  • Thulium emission in the infrared can be used in diagnostic imaging.

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This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior—Brasil (CAPES)—Finance Code 001. São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP, grant 2015/20298-0 L.A.R, 2018/02387-3 S.B.M., and 2019/02641-0 EJ.N) and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq, grant 302702/2018-0 L.A.R. and 302668/2017-9 E.J.N.) are also acknowledged. The authors thank Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineração (CBMM) for donating NbCl5.

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Correspondence to Eduardo J. Nassar.

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Nassar, E.J., Moscardini, S.B., Lechevallier, S. et al. Niobium oxide doped with Tm3+ and Gd3+ ions for multimodal imaging in biology. J Sol-Gel Sci Technol (2020).

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  • Nonhydrolytic sol–gel
  • Lanthanides
  • Infrared emission
  • Biological applications