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Keywords:

  • biodistribution;
  • nanostructures;
  • quantum dots;
  • toxicity

Abstract

Quantum dots have potential in biomedical applications, but concerns persist about their safety. Most toxicology data is derived from in vitro studies and may not reflect in vivo responses. Here, an initial systematic animal toxicity study of CdSe–ZnS core–shell quantum dots in healthy Sprague–Dawley rats is presented. Biodistribution, animal survival, animal mass, hematology, clinical biochemistry, and organ histology are characterized at different concentrations (2.5–15.0 nmol) over short-term (<7 days) and long-term (>80 days) periods. The results show that the quantum dot formulations do not cause appreciable toxicity even after their breakdown in vivo over time. To generalize the toxicity of quantum dots in vivo, further investigations are still required. Some of these investigations include the evaluation of quantum dot composition (e.g., PbS versus CdS), surface chemistry (e.g., functionalization with amines versus carboxylic acids), size (e.g., 2 versus 6 nm), and shape (e.g., spheres versus rods), as well as the effect of contaminants and their byproducts on biodistribution behavior and toxicity. Combining the results from all of these studies will eventually lead to a conclusion regarding the issue of quantum dot toxicity.