National Research Nuclear University MEPhI receives a patent on a nanoprobe of a new generation for early diagnosis of cancer, a recent invention made in LNBE

National Research Nuclear University MEPhI has received a patent on A Method for Engineering a Nanosized Diagnostic Probe Based on Conjugates of Nanoparticles and Single-Domain Antibodies (RU 2 560 699).

The new nanoprobe is highly sensitive and small in size and, hence, can be used to visualize very small amounts of tumor cells or other pathologically altered cells, viruses, or bacteria and can penetrate deep into tissue to detect disease biomarkers in samples of tissues or biological fluids and, potentially, in vivo.

The high efficiency of the nanoprobe is ensured by three characteristic features. First, fluorescent semiconductor nonocrystals or "quantum dots" are used as fluorescent tags. They are characterized by unprecedentedly bright emission, a high photostability, and a narrow emission spectrum with a very wide absorption spectrum. This allows several biomarkers to be detected in a single sample of tissue or blood (which was reported in more detail, e.g., in our News in March and April of this year).

Second, quantum dots are made water-soluble by coating them with a shell of "smart" polymers, multifunctional polyethylene glycol derivatives, which yields particles with a controllable surface charge. Furthermore, single-domain antibodies, unique molecules derived from llama antibodies by genetic engineering methods, are used as capture molecules of the hybrid nanoprobe. Single-domain antibodies are 13 times smaller than conventional antibodies while retaining the capacity for a highly effective recognition of the target antigens. In addition, chemical modification of single-domain antibodies and modern nano-bioengineering techniques make it possible to attach the antibodies to the nanoparticles in a strictly oriented manner, so that all sites recognizing the disease biomarker remain active, which ensures an ultrahigh sensitivity of the diagnostic nanoprobe.

Further development of new generations of diagnostic nanoprobes is one of the LNBE's main areas of research and among the main fields of international collaboration of the laboratory. During the time after the application for this patent, pilot nanoprobes for imaging several biomarkers of human malignant tumors have been engineered, which should allow early diagnosis of cancer to be substantially improved.

One of promising lines of further research and developments in this field is the use of quantum dots fluorescing in the infrared region, which is a "transparency window" of biological tissues. Nanoprobes containing these quantum dots are being developed in a joint project of LNBE and the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), Republic of Korea.


Prof. Igor Nabiev, PhD, DSc, leading scientist (

Laboratory of Nano-Bioengineering, Moscow Engineering Physics Institute
31 Kashirskoe shosse, 115409 Moscow, Russian Federation

© 2012 Laboratory of Nano-BioEngineering