Sletten/Zink groups lead collaborative team to design new brand of imaging agents

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Professors Ellen Sletten and Jeffrey Zink and their group members join with researchers in Germany to develop new optical imaging agents.

Their paper titled “Shortwave Infrared Imaging with J-Aggregates Stabilized in Hollow Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles” was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS)

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Graduate students Wei Chen, Emily Cosco, and Chi-An Cheng, Professors Jeffrey Zink and Ellen Sletten.

First authors are UCLA chemistry graduate students Wei Chen (Zink group) and Emily Cosco (Sletten group), and UCLA bioengineering graduate student Chi-An Cheng (Zink group). Professors Jeffrey Zink and Ellen Sletten are co-senior authors along with Dr. Oliver Bruns from the Helmholtz Pioneer Campus in Munich. Bruns’ group members engineer Shyam Ramakrishnan and graduate student Jakob Lingg are also co-authors.

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In this study, the team reports a new material that emits shortwave infrared (SWIR) light, low energy light that cannot be seen by the eye but can be detected by special cameras. What is exciting about SWIR light is that it can penetrate through tissue, allowing the inside of mammals to be visualized. The challenge of imaging in the SWIR region is that few biocompatible materials emit SWIR light. Here, molecules that normally emit higher energy light were assembled with a specific alignment, called J-aggregation, such that they emit SWIR light. The assembly was stabilized in biological environments through the use of hollow mesoporous silica nanoparticles. 

This work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Emmy-Noether Program of the DFG, Zink Student Research Fund, Christopher S. Foote Fellowship, UCLA, and Helmholz Pioneer Campus Institute for Biomedical Engineering. 

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,