Fluorescent labels have been widely used for biological applications, primarily in imaging and assays. Traditional fluorophores such as fluorescent dyes are mainly based on downconversion fluorescence, which have several drawbacks such as photobleaching, high background noise from autofluorescence, and considerable photodamage to biological materials. Upconverting fluorescent nanoparticles emit detectable photons of higher energy in the near-infrared (NIR) or visible range upon irradiation with an NIR light in a process termed ‘upconversion.’ They overcome some of the disadvantages faced by conventional downconversion labels, thus making them an ideal fluorescent label for biological applications. This review looks at the development of these particles, critically examines the reported applications, and discusses their future in biomedicine.
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