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Keywords:

  • fluorescence;
  • imaging agents;
  • polymer dots;
  • semiconductors;
  • sensors

Abstract

In recent years, semiconducting polymer nanoparticles have attracted considerable attention because of their outstanding characteristics as fluorescent probes. These nanoparticles, which primarily consist of π-conjugated polymers and are called polymer dots (Pdots) when they exhibit small particle size and high brightness, have demonstrated utility in a wide range of applications such as fluorescence imaging and biosensing. In this review, we summarize recent findings of the photophysical properties of Pdots which speak to the merits of these entities as fluorescent labels. This review also highlights the surface functionalization and biomolecular conjugation of Pdots, and their applications in cellular labeling, in vivo imaging, single-particle tracking, biosensing, and drug delivery. We discuss the relationship between the physical properties and performance, and evaluate the merits and limitations of the Pdot probes for certain imaging tasks and fluorescence assays. We also tackle the current challenges of Pdots and share our perspective on the future directions of the field.