Functional human insulin–Au nanodots (NDs) are synthesized for the in vivo imaging of insulin metabolism. Benefiting from its efficient red to near infrared fluorescence, deep tissue subcellular uptake of insulin–Au NDs can be clearly resolved through a least-invasive harmonic generation and two-photon fluorescence (TPF) microscope. In vivo investigations on mice ear and ex vivo assays on human fat tissues conclude that cells with rich insulin receptors have higher uptake of administrated insulin. Interestingly, the insulin–Au NDs can even permeate into lipid droplets (LDs) of adipocytes. Using this newly discovered metabolic phenomenon of insulin, it is found that enlarged adipocytes in type II diabetes mice have higher adjacent/LD concentration contrast with small-sized ones in wild type mice. For human clinical samples, the epicardial adipocytes of patients with diabetes and coronary artery disease (CAD) also show elevated adjacent/LD concentration contrast. As a result, human insulin–Au nanodots provide a new approach to explore subcellular insulin metabolism in model animals or patients with metabolic or cardiovascular diseases.
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