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Emission Control of Rare-Earth Nanoparticles

Project description

Controlling nanoparticle light emission modes enables two functions in one particle

The ability to integrate diagnosis with therapy (theranostics) offers significant advantages in terms of patient comfort, costs and diagnostic and treatment time. For example, during a routine colonoscopy, a polyp encountered using a fibre-optic colonoscope can be removed during the same procedure by simply running a small wire loop through the colonoscope to sever the polyp using an electric current. Nanoparticles (NPs) are uniquely qualified to enable theranostics with single particles. Rare-earth NPs can emit light in response to near-infrared stimulation that is shifted towards either longer wavelengths or shorter ones. However, it is currently not possible to control the emission modes. The EU-funded MONOCLE project is on a mission to change that, paving the way for innovative theranostics and new rare-earth NP architectures for a variety of applications that rely on luminescent materials.


Optical theranostic (diagnostic + therapy) techniques are low-cost, safe, and constitute a next big leap in the betterment of human healthcare. In that regard, luminescent nanoparticles (NPs) are poised to become the multifunctional instruments of personalized medicine. However, present-day theranostic NPs provide no control over their arsenal of capabilities – their competences are often entangled so that diagnostics cannot be done without therapy. In the same way that surgeons do not cut before ascertaining what and where to cut, so do light-responsive nanoparticles must have the flexibility to switch between their imaging/sensing and therapeutic modalities at-will. Rare-earth NPs (RENPs) are endowed with downshifting (Stokes) and upconversion (anti-Stokes) luminescence stimulated by near-infrared light; thus, RENPs are designed for non-invasive deep-tissue optical imaging (to diagnose) and in-situ mediation of photochemical processes (to treat). As such, RENPs are just the right candidates to decouple therapy from diagnostics, while preserving both in a single theranostic NP. With MONOCLE, I propose a tangible and timely development of RENPs with built-in control over their different emission modes. Capitalizing on the modular design of RENPs in unison with temporally modulated laser excitation, I intend to separate downshifting and upconversion processes creating truly-multifunctional theranostic RENPs (TMTs). In essence, TMTs are destined to apply “measure twice and cut once” philosophy – which constitutes benign examination and diagnosis of the target, with in-situ treatment available on-demand. Successful development of TMTs is projected to have far-reaching implications in safe and selective use of light-controlled nanomedicines. Furthermore, the multidisciplinary nature of this project is anticipated to foster new RENP architectures and alternative excitation pathways, decisively advancing not only biomedical but also luminescent materials science research.


Net EU contribution
€ 245 732,16
28049 Madrid

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Comunidad de Madrid Comunidad de Madrid Madrid
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 245 732,16

Partners (1)