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    Multimodal Microscopy Distinguishes Extracellular Aggregation and Cellular Uptake of Single-Walled Carbon Nanohorns
    The low toxicity, high surface area, and ease of functionalisation of carbon nanohorns (CNH) makes them attractive systems for cellular imaging, diagnostics and therapeutics. However, challenges remain for the biomedical translation of these and other nanomaterials. A significant task is tuning the surface chemistry to achieve optimal cellular interactions. Herein, we combine real-time fluorescent imaging of nanoparticle cellular uptake and real-time differential interference contrast (DIC) imaging of extracellular media to monitor a) nanoparticle/nanoparticle and b) nanoparticle/cell interactions for CNHs covalently modified with an OFF/ON near-IR dye, the fluorescence of which is switched OFF in extracellular environments and triggered upon cellular internalisation. CHN samples modified with different loadings of the hydrophobic dye are taken as a simple model of drug-loaded nanoparticle systems. The punctate fluorescence suggests the CNHs are delivered to lysosomes and other vesicles of the endocytic pathway. DIC imaging highlights the competition that exists for many particle types, between extracellular aggregation and cellular internalization, the efficiency of which would be dependent upon the amount of fluorophore loading. The results of this study illustrate how complementary real-time imaging methods together with physicochemical characterisation can be used to address the challenges involved in optimising nanoparticle/cell interactions for biomedical applications.
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