Gold nanorods are being studied within biological systems for applications such as drug delivery, imaging, Molecular imaging probes play a pivotal role in detecting and staging cancer, and enable physicians to effectively plan treatments for cancer patients. Most molecular imaging probesused in clinical oncology are visualized with positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computer tomography (SPECT), and the PET probe 18F-FDG is the current gold standard for cancer imaging. However, novel molecular imaging probes are necessary in order to overcome several limitations of 18F-FDG, including an inability to detect slow growing tumors and non-specific targeting.
Conventional synthesis methods for molecular imaging probes typically involve many tedious steps including protection/de-protection of functional groups to prevent unwanted side reactions. The advent of “click chemistry” has reduced the need for such steps due to the orthogonal nature of the reactions, where only the desired complementary functional groups form covalent bonds. However, the development of new molecular imaging probes via click chemistry is still plagued by the limitations of conventional, manual procedures, such as consumption of large amounts of expensive reagents, inefficient handling of small volumes, need for expensive, lengthy purification procedures, and long reaction times. These limitations can be addressed using microfluidic technologies that enable efficient handling of small volumes, reduce reagent use, and shorten reaction times due to reduced heat and mass transport limitations. Microfluidics combined with “click chemistry” has the potential to overcome issues associated with traditional probe production and provide novel opportunities inmolecular imaging agent synthesis.
Joseph is a PhD student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL