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Nelsi Zaccheroni

Associate Professor

Department of Chemistry "Giacomo Ciamician"

Academic discipline: CHIM/03 General and Inorganic Chemistry

Research

Keywords: luminescent chemosensors imaging luminescent silica nanoparticles nanomaterials for medical diagnostic and theranostic

Design, synthesis, characterization and optimization of innovative materials for the fields of sensors, diagnosis and imaging for environmental, biological and medical applications. All these materials will be based on chemical systems presenting particular photochemical, photophysical and/or electrochemical characteristics. The research can be summarized by three main topics:

1- design, synthesis, characterization of luminescent chemosensors for analytes of environmental and biological interest presenting photophysical properties significantly affected by the analyte recognition event. These material will be used for the development of efficient sensors based on optical transduction. Of particular interest are chemosensors for metal ions able to pass biological membranes allowing the imaging of their distribution inside the cells.

2- synthesis and characterization of gold, silver, silica, core-shell (metal core-silica shell, magnetic core-silica shell, or silica core-surfactant shell) and multilayered (many differently derivatized silica shells) nanoparticles. New methods have been developed to functionalize them at the surface and/or inside with luminescent or redox-active species, and with specific receptors for differen iniorganic or bio-targets .

3- optimization and merging of different systems prepared and studied in the framework of the previous research lines to obtain specifically suitable materials for applications in medical diagnosis, to develop ultrasensitive multiplexed imaging analytical methods able to simultaneously localize different target biomolecules. The final goal will be to obtain materials suitable also for in vivo analysis.

 



Aim of the research is to design, synthesize and study supramolecular systems able to perform useful functions and characterized by particularly interesting photochemical, photophysical and electrochemical properties. In between the many different possible systems we will select the ones that are promising candidates to be used in the preparation of innovative materials for the fields of sensing, medical diagnostic and imaging for environmental, biological and medical applications. The main areas of this research activity can be summarized in the three points below:

1- Luminescent Chemosensors: design, synthesis and characterization of luminescent and/or chromogenic chemosensors for different metal ions that are important in various fields such as environmental (pollutants as Hg) and biological (K, Mg, etc.) ones. This work is in collaboration with many other research groups in Italy and abroad and will lead to the development of efficient sensors based on optical signals (UV-Vis, luminescence, electroluminescence) presenting photophysical properties drastically dependent by the interaction of the receptor moiety with the target analyte. Luminescent chemosensors for metal ions in cells are of particular interest, and some supramolecular species able to bind magnesium ions and to pass biological membranes are in study. Magnesium ions are of fundamental importance in many of the cell processes and even very small variations in their concentrations can cause great biological damages, on the other side they can also be diagnostic for important pathologies. The aim is therefore to obtain the imaging of the distribution of this species inside the cells, its compartmentalization, in fact, if present would help a lot in understanding the mechanisms of many biological processes.

2- Nanoparticles: synthesis and characterization of gold, silver, silica, core-shell (metal core-silica shell, magnetic core-silica shell, or silica core-surfactant shell) and multilayered (many differently derivatized silica shells) nanoparticles. New methods have been developed in ours laboratories, and one also patented, to functionalize them at the surface and/or inside with luminescent or redox-active species, and specific receptors for different targets. Heterosupramolecular systems of this kind are very interesting also from the point of view of a basic research on their properties to establish how the properties of the active species are influenced by reciprocal proximity, immobilization, the different environment and a possible metallic core. On the other side their great versatility, together with their peculiar properties, make them perfect candidates for applications in many different fields, in fact a further derivatization with suitable molecules can induce autoorganization, adsorption on surfaces or electrodes, efficient recognition of target molecules. The particular disposition of the active molecule inside these nanostructures can finally be exploited to obtain precious amplification signal effects.

3- Optimization of ultrasensitive multiplexed imaging analytical methods for medical diagnostic: taking advantage from the species designed and synthesized in the framework of the two previous research lines, we are preparing new innovative luminescent materials suitable to develop ex vivo ultrasensitive multiplexed imaging analytical methods able to simultaneously localize different target biomolecules (e.g. proteins or genomic sequences) present at very low concentrations in cells or tissue samples. These labels will allow the development of diagnostic methods useful for the early diagnosis and with highly prognostic power, since they will enable the simultaneous detection of traces of various biomarkers of a given pathologic processes. The detecting materials in study aim to a very high sensitivity, this will be obtained thanks to a very high signal to noise ratio due to passive signal amplification effects. This passive signal amplification will be achieved creating detection multichromophoric nanostructures that will also present great application flexibility.

 

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