Carbon Dots as a New Class of Diamagnetic Chemical Exchange Saturation Transfer (diaCEST) MRI Contrast Agents

Jia Zhang, Yue Yuan, Minling Gao, Zheng Han, Chengyan Chu, Yuguo Li, Peter C.M. van Zijl, Mingyao Ying, Jeff W.M. Bulte, Guanshu Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


While carbon dots (C-dots) have been extensively investigated pertaining to their fluorescent, phosphorescent, electrochemiluminescent, optoelectronic, and catalytic features, their inherent chemical exchange saturation transfer magnetic resonance imaging (CEST MRI) properties are unknown. By virtue of their hydrophilicity and abundant exchangeable protons of hydroxyl, amine, and amide anchored on the surface, we report here that C-dots can be adapted as effective diamagnetic CEST (diaCEST) MRI contrast agents. As a proof-of-concept demonstration, human glioma cells were labeled with liposomes with or without encapsulated C-dots and implanted in mouse brain. In vivo CEST MRI was able to clearly differentiate labeled cells from non-labeled cells. The present findings may encourage new applications of C-dots for in vivo imaging in deep tissues, which is currently not possible using conventional fluorescent (near-infrared) C-dots.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9871-9875
Number of pages5
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number29
StatePublished - Jul 15 2019


  • carbon dots
  • cell labeling
  • contrast agent
  • intracranial implantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)


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