Surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) is a sensitive and reproducible vibrational spectroscopic technique used to detect and characterize molecules near the surface of noble metals like Au, Ag, Pt, Cu, etc. SERS enhances Raman signals through light-induced plasmonic vibrations occurring on irregular metal surfaces and localized electromagnetic augmentation. To better define nano-scale regions of the Raman signal enhancement, we generated gold nanoparticles with a unique multi-branched configuration along with surface-adsorbed fluorescent reporter molecules. The reporter molecules included a set of near-infra red active fluorescent dyes IR820 (green cyanine, photo electronic dye), DTTC (3, 3'-diethylthiatricarbocyanine iodide) and DTDC (3, 3'- diethylthiadicarbocyanine iodide). We employed a one-pot synthesis method in order to generate a stellate configuration in gold nanoparticles through the reduction of HAuCl4 with Good’s buffer, HEPES, at pH 7.4 and room temperature. A cell viability assay was performed with normal esophageal cells exposed to the multi-branched gold nanoparticles and SERS molecules to assess their toxicity. Our results demonstrate the capacity of multibranched gold nanoparticles linked to Raman reporter molecules to generate distinct signature spectra and, with the exception of the gold nanoparticles functionalized with DTTC, remain non-toxic to normal esophageal cells.
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