Multifunctional Cu1.94S-Bi2S3@polymer nanocomposites for computed tomography imaging guided photothermal ablation

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  • ReceivedMay 2, 2017
  • AcceptedJun 25, 2017
  • PublishedJul 24, 2017


The doping of radiocontrast agent such as bismuth (Bi) in copper chalcogenide nanocrystals for computed tomography (CT) imaging guided photothermal therapy (PTT) has drawn increasing attention. However, the doping of Bi often suffers from the weak CT signal due to the low Bi doping concentration and deteriorates the PTT efficacy of copper chalcogenides. Here we report a multifunctional nanoprobe by encapsulating both Cu1.94S and Bi2S3 nanocrystals into a biocompatible poly(amino acid) matrix with size of ~85 nm for CT imaging guided PTT. The amount of nanocrystals and the ratio of Cu1.94S-to-Bi2S3 in the multifunctional nanocomposites (NCs) are tunable toward both high photothermal conversion efficiency (~31%) and excellent CT imaging capability (27.8 HU g L−1). These NCs demonstrate excellent effects for photothermal ablation of tumors after intratumoral injection on 4T1 tumor-bearing mice. Our study may provide a facile strategy for the fabrication of multifunctional theranostics towards simultaneous strong CT signal and excellent PTT.

Funded by

This research was supported in part by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(21475007,21675009)

Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities(buctrc201608,buctrc201720)


This research was supported in part by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21475007 and 21675009), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (buctrc201608 and buctrc201720). We also thank Prof. X. Zhang of Xiamen University for the help on the in vivo CT imaging and PTT, and the support from the “Public Hatching Platform for Recruited Talents of Beijing University of Chemical Technology”.

Interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Contributions statement

Wang L proposed the research direction and guided the project. Lu X, Li Y and Bai X designed and performed the experiments. Lu X, Hu G and Wang L analyzed and discussed the experimental results, and drafted the manuscript. All the authors checked and approved the manuscript.

Author information

Xiaoquan Lu is currently a third-year Master candidate in chemistry under the supervision of Prof. Leyu Wang at Beijing University of Chemical Technology (BUCT) since 2014. His research interest is focused on CT imaging and photothermal ablation.

Leyu Wang is a professor of chemistry at BUCT. He received his PhD in chemistry from Tsinghua University with Prof. Yadong Li in 2007. Then he joined Prof. Huang’s group at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) as a postdoctoral researcher from 2007–2009. He moved to BUCT’s Chemistry Department in October 2009. His research interests span from the controlled synthesis of upconversion luminescence nanoparticles (UCNPs), localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) near-infrared (NIR) semiconductor NPs, magnetic nanomaterials, metal-semiconductor heteronanostructures, and molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) nanomaterials to the applications including electrocatalysis, artificial photosynthesis, biochemical sensing, multimodal imaging, drug/gene delivery and photothermo/chemo therapy.


Supplementary information

Experimental details are available in the online version of the paper.


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  • Scheme 1

    Schematic illustration for the fabrication and CT-guided PTT of the Cu1.94S-Bi2S3@PSIOAm multifunctional nanocomposites.

  • Figure 1

    TEM images of Cu1.94S NPs (a), Bi2S3 nanorods (b) as well as Cu1.94S-Bi2S3@PSIOAm NCs (c and d), and DLS size distribution of NCs (e).

  • Figure 2

    (a) XRD pattern of Cu1.94S-Bi2S3@PSIOAm NCs. (b) FTIR spectra of the Cu1.94S NPs, Bi2S3 nanorods, PSIOAm and the NCs. (c) The monitored temperature profiles of the NCs synthesized with various Cu-to-Bi ratios, under the irradiation of 808-nm laser (1.0 W cm−2) for 6 min, followed by cooling naturally with laser light turned off. The dosage of Bi2S3 is fixed at 0.7 mg and the ratio of Cu-to-Bi in NCs was 9.07:1 (S2), 17.2:1 (S3) and 29.0:1 (S4), respectively. The nanocomposite sample prepared with only Bi2S3(0.7 mg) was denoted as S1. The concentration of the NCs was 0.3 mg mL−1.

  • Figure 3

    (a) Photothermal images of Cu1.94S-Bi2S3@PSIOAm NCs colloids under the irradiation of 808-nm light at different power densities and time intervals. (b) The temperature elevation profiles of the NCs colloids under continuous irradiation of 808-nm light at various power densities. The NCs concentration was 0.4 mg mL−1.

  • Figure 4

    Cell viability tests of NCs in the absence (a) and presence (b) of 808-nm light irradiation (1.0 W cm−2, 5 min) after incubation with HeLa cells for 24 h.

  • Figure 5

    In vitro CT images (a) and plot (b) of CT values (HU) versus the concentrations of Cu1.94S-Bi2S3@PSIOAm NCs colloidal solution. The concentration of Bi in each colloidal solution is 0.0, 0.09, 0.18, 0.36, 0.78, and 1.14 mg mL−1.

  • Figure 6

    (a) In vivo CT images of 4T1 tumor-bearing mice before and after intra-tumor injection of NCs nanoprobe solution (100 μL, 24 mg mL−1); In vivo photothermal images of the tumor-bearing mice after intra-tumor injection of NCs under irradiation (808 nm, 1.0 W cm−2) for different time intervals (b), and temperature evolution profile (c) of the tumor under 808-nm laser irradiation (1.0 W cm−2) for 0–10 min.

  • Figure 7

    Evolution plots of the tumor size (a) and the mouse body weight (b) after photothermal treatment under 808-nm laser irradiation with a power density of 1.0 W cm−2 for 10 min. 100 μL, 24 mg mL−1 of the nanoprobe solution was administered by intra-tumor injection; 100 μL of PBS solution (pH 7.4) was injected for the control group.

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