A novel targeting theranostic nanoprobe based on single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs)-natural biopolymer chitosan composites was developed for cancer cell targeting imaging and fluorescence imaging-guided photodynamic therapy. First, chitosan was respectively conjugated with a tumor-homing molecule folic acid, or a photosensitizing drug pyropheophorbide a using a water-soluble carbodiimide coupling chemistry. Chitosan was fluorescently labeled by fluorescein isothiocyanate via the covalently linkage of the isothiocyanate group with the amino group. Second, SWCNTs were sonicated in the functional chitosan aqueous solution for 6 h at room temperature in order to obtain the nanoprobe (PPa/FITC-SWCNT-FA). The as-prepared nanoprobe has been characterized with transmission electron microscope, confocal microscopy, and cell cytotoxicity tests. Chitosan was decorated onto SWCNTs resulting in the water-dispersible PPa/FITC-SWCNT-FA, and can be selectively transported inside folate receptor-positive tumor cell with good targeting imaging. PPa/FITC-SWCNT-FA exhibited low dark toxicity about 7%–13%, and high phototoxicity about 60%–74% against HeLa cells upon a 635 nm laser irradiation, indicating satisfying biocompatibility and antitumor activity. These results suggest the study could offer a feasible alternative to presently available nanoparticle-based theranostic agents.
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