Innovation and Partnerships Office

New Multimodal Probes Compatible with Fluorescence and MRI JIB-2075


  • Effective as multimodal probes for:
    • Imaging
    • Targeting specific cells or tissue
    • Therapeutics delivery and imaging in vivo or in vitro
  • Detects locality and size of diseased cells by MRI, PET, ESR, or deep tissue NIR with greater sensitivity than possible with existing methods.


  • Increases resolution of in vivo imaging
  • Reduces false positive imaging (when used with MRI and fluorescence imaging in combination)
  • Can facilitate imaging-guided surgery
  • Offers more enhanced resolution than MRI or Near Infrared (NIR) Imaging alone


Dr. Fanqing Chen and his collaborators at Berkeley Lab have invented new imaging probes that are not only capable of imaging, but preferential targeting and therapeutic delivery as well. Given their small size, between 10-15 nm, these probes are able to escape the bloodstream and infuse tissue. Additionally, the conjugation of MRI imaging agents with the Berkeley Lab probes, increases the relaxivity of the agent and thus, provides better resolution. Similarly, the probes can be used in conjunction with PET, ESR, and deep tissue Near Infrared (NIR) imaging either as imaging agents to target specific areas, or as contrasting agent.

Dr. Chen has adapted bioconjugation schemes whereby nanocrystals are covalently linked with one or more agents, as they are needed, to provide a multimodal probe. For instance, attaching agents such as antibodies, receptor ligands or signal peptides would enable the probe to target specific cells or tissues that correspond to linked agent. This ensures the imaging of only the specified target. For therapeutic purposes, nucleic acids, photodynamic agents, and pharmaceuticals can be linked to the probe, along with a targeting agent. This allows therapeutics to be tracked in vivo or in vitro .

Possible applications of this multimodal probe include early detection of disease and tumors, as well as imaging-guided surgery. The increased resolution allowed by the Berkeley Lab probes can help identify false positives that were previously undetected by MRI, thus decreasing the margin of error in false positive test results. Furthermore, optical imaging using these probes can supplement medical surgeries as a more precise and convenient mechanism than MRI.

The ratio of the chosen linked agent per quantum dot can bring the probes into a highly packed nanocluster and thus reduce the required concentration of imaging agent and increase resolution. Further studies include the possibility of using chemicals as linking agents that are safer for patients than those used by existing technologies.


  • Published Patent Application WO 2009/045579 available at Available for licensing or collaborative research.

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