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Modulating cellular cytotoxicity and phototoxicity of fluorescent organic salts through counterion pairing

By Deanna Broadwater, Matthew Bates, Mayank Jayaram, Margaret Young, Jianzhou He, Austin L Raithel, Thomas W Hamann, Wei Zhang, Babak Borhan, Richard R Lunt, Sophia Y. Lunt

Posted 22 Aug 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/743716 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-51593-z)

Light-activated theranostics offer promising opportunities for disease diagnosis, image-guided surgery, and site-specific personalized therapy. However, current fluorescent dyes are limited by low brightness, high cytotoxicity, poor tissue penetration, and unwanted side effects. To overcome these limitations, we demonstrate a platform for optoelectronic tuning, which allows independent control of the optical properties from the electronic properties of fluorescent organic salts. This is achieved through cation-anion pairing of organic salts that can modulate the frontier molecular orbital without impacting the bandgap. Optoelectronic tuning enables decoupled control over the cytotoxicity and phototoxicity of fluorescent organic salts through selective generation of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species that control cell viability. We show that through counterion pairing, organic salt nanoparticles can be tuned to be either nontoxic for enhanced imaging, or phototoxic for improved photodynamic therapy.

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