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Smart Imaging Probes, Emerging Imaging

Gadolinium/conjugated polymer nanoparticles for multimodal IR-imaging

Project ID: 2023_038

1st Supervisor: Prof Mark Green, King’s College London
2nd Supervisor: Prof James Wilton-Ely, Imperial College London
Tertiary Supervisor: Dr Federico Foschi, King’s College London


Aim of the PhD Project:

  • The preparation of Gd-functionalised conjugated polymer nanoparticles
  • Novel structures that allow emission in the first IR biological window
  • PDT using free radical generation
  • Enhanced MR contrast through immobilisation and insertion of Gd units


Lay Summary:

The project will explore a multimodal, therapeutic nanoparticle system, that can be used in imaging and treating a number of disease states. Numerous imaging agents exist that present a single imaging modality, such as optical, MR, PET, etc, and each has its own benefits and problems. When we combine numerous imaging modalities in a single imaging agent, we take the best of numerous systems, and have a material that is both stable, sensitive, has deep imaging penetration and sensitivity and can be potentially/eventually used in clinics reducing testing and waiting times for patients.

Conjugated polymer nanoparticles offer stable emission, usually in the visible region, although we have now extended this to the IR window, where biological imaging is easier. Currently, whilst this allows relatively deep tissue imaging, the addition of a further imaging modality, such as MRI active compounds (gadolinium chelates) allow even deeper penetration and excellent spatial resolution. Such materials which exhibit both luminescent and MRI activity can be considered next generation imaging probes. We have also shown that by the attachment of antibodies, and other biologic targeting molecules (affirmers), we can specifically image certain disease states, such as as cancers. We have further extended this to engineer the generation of free radical and heat, under specific conditions, allowing the particles to act as therapeutic agents, killing cancer cells.

In this project, we will explore combining all these modalities – luminescent/MRI active nanoparticles that can target and identify cancer cells, and generate free radicals to treat the disease.

The ideal candidate would have a degree in chemistry, materials or in a biology-related field, provided they have experience of synthesis. The applicant should have a strong academic record, an interest in preclinical imaging, excellent communication skills and be able to work in a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment. The student will be trained in tissue culture and molecular imaging using optical/MRI techniques.


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