38. Synthesis of highly stable cyanine-dye-doped silica nanoparticle for biological applications

Cyanine dyes are widely used in biological labeling and imaging because of their narrow near infrared emission, good brightness and high flexibility in functionalization, which not only enables multiplex analysis and multi-color imaging, but also greatly reduces autofluorescence from biological matter and increases signal-to-noise ratio. Unfortunately, their poor chemical- and photo-stability strongly limits their applications. The incorporation of cyanine dyes in silica nanoparticles provides a solution to the problem. On one hand, the incorporation of cyanine dyes in silica matrix can enhance their chemical- and photo-stability and increase brightness of the nanomaterials. On the other hand, silica matrix provides an optimized condition to host the dye, which helps to maintain their fluorescent properties during application. In addition, the well-established silane technique provides numerous functionalities for diverse applications. However, commercially-available cyanine dyes are not very stable at high alkaline conditions, which will gradually lose their fluorescence over time. Our results showed that cyanine dyes are very vulnerable in the reverse micelle system, in which they will lose their fluorescence in less than half an hour. The existence of surfactant could greatly promote the degradation of cyanine dyes. Fluorescent silica nanoparticles cannot be obtained at the high alkaline condition with the existence of surfactant. In contrast, the cyanine dyes are relatively stable in Stöber media. Owing to the fast formation of silica particles in Stöber media, the exposure time of cyanine dye in alkaline solution was greatly reduced, and highly fluorescent particles with good morphology and size distribution could be obtained via Stöber approach. However, the increasing water content in the Stöber could reduce the stability of cyanine dyes, which should be avoided. This research here provides a clear guidance on how to successfully synthesize cyanine dye-doped silica nanoparticles with good morphology, size distribution, stability and brightness.