Paramagnetic Quantum Dots as Multimodal Probes for Potential Applications in Nervous System Imaging

  • Yan Du
  • Karunanithi Rajamanickam
  • Taisa Regina Stumpf
  • Yubo Qin
  • Holly McCulloch
  • Xiuying Yang
  • Jingchang Zhang
  • Eve Tsai
  • Xudong Cao


An axonal tracer that can be detected by both magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and fluorescence is of great interest for studying nerve regeneration, particularly for spinal cord injury repairs. In this study, we develop a new type of multifunctional nanoparticle that combines three different functionalities of paramagnetism, fluorescence, and axonal tracing into one nanomaterial. We demonstrate that the new synthesized quantum dot nanoparticles have good biocompatibilities and can be readily taken up by cells. In addition, the quantum dots show excellent longitudinal and transverse relaxivities (i.e. r 1  = 11.22 ± 0.10 mM−1 s−1 and r 2  = 24.50 ± 0.51 mM−1 s−1) at 1.5 T, MRI contrast properties better than those of Magnevist®, a commercially available MRI contrast agent. The UV–vis absorbance spectra of all the pQDs-BDA samples indicate that these tracers are stable at different temperatures. Taken together, this new nanomaterial demonstrates good performances for both optical and MR imaging modalities, suggesting its promising potential applications in non-invasive imaging, particularly as a novel multimodal axonal tracer for nervous system imaging.


MRI Quantum dots Neurotracers Non-invasive imaging Gadolinium 



TRS wishes to thank the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq, Brazil) for financial support of her Ph.D. study. The authors also thank Krystal Walker and Matthew Coyle at Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) for their assistance with confocal microscopy.


This work was supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary material

10904_2017_766_MOESM1_ESM.docx (140 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 139 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yan Du
    • 1
  • Karunanithi Rajamanickam
    • 2
  • Taisa Regina Stumpf
    • 1
  • Yubo Qin
    • 1
  • Holly McCulloch
    • 1
  • Xiuying Yang
    • 3
  • Jingchang Zhang
    • 3
  • Eve Tsai
    • 2
  • Xudong Cao
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Chemical and Biological EngineeringUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Department of NeurosurgeryOttawa Hospital Research InstituteOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Hainan Institute of Science and TechnologyHaikouChina
  4. 4.Ottawa Carleton Institute of Biomedical EngineeringUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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