The transitioning of carbon quantum dot (cQD) applications from electrochemistry, catalysis and environmental sensing to biomedicine represents an important milestone in its 15-year history; a bellwether for its yet-unrealized potential in interventional biology, imaging, diagnostics, prophylaxis and therapy. However, despite the significant advances made over the last decade in several areas of the cQD domain, our knowledge of the exact chemical ipseity of cQDs at the Angstrom level remains either in its infancy or is largely ignored. The imminent crossing over of cQDs into biological systems and into the blood–brain barrier demands attention to the critical, yet unmet, need to resolve the inherent heterogeneity in cQD preparations and their separation into purified conformers, to identify the issues associated with potential cytotoxicity as well as to examine their bioavailability. Perhaps most importantly, and ironically neglected as well, is the compelling urgency to obtain an atomic- and molecular-level understanding of cQD’s interactions with biological receptors; a demand that requires absolute knowledge of its structure, chemistry and aspects therein. The need for the total chemical mapping of cQDs, with Angstrom-level resolution, remains the unrealized cornerstone to tailoring its specificity for its designated use in preclinical and clinical trials.
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