Nanoscience and Microsystems ETDs


John Plumley

Publication Date



Quantum dots (QDs) have become attractive in the biomedical field on account of their superior optical properties and stability, in comparison to traditional fluorophores. QDs also have properties which make them ideal for complex in vivo conditions. However, toxicity has been a chief concern in the eventual implementation of QDs for in vivo applications such as biosensing and tumor imaging. Commercially available QDs contain a notoriously noxious Cd component and therefore continuous research has gone into developing QDs without toxic heavy metals, generally Cd, that would still yield comparable performance in terms of their optical properties. Nonetheless, even in the case of Cd-free QDs, toxicity should be evaluated on a case by case basis, as other properties such as size, coating, stability, and charge can affect toxicity of nanomaterials as well, making it a very complex issue. With the high promise of QDs in the field of biomedical development as a motivation, this work strives to develop the efficient and repeatable synthesis of Cd-free QDs with high stability and luminescence, with proven low toxicity, and the ability to detect active matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) in a biosensing system, designed to identify direct biomarkers for pathological conditions, which in turn would enable early disease diagnosis and better treatment development. In this work, highly luminescent ZnSe:Mn/ZnS QDs have been synthesized, characterized, and modified with peptides with a bioconjugation procedure that utilized thiol-metal affinity. Experiments aiming at MMP detection were conducted using the peptide/QD conjugates. In addition, the ApoTox-GloTM Triplex assay was utilized to evaluate cytotoxicity, and a safe concentration below 0.125 μM was identified for peptide-coated ZnSe:Mn/ZnS QDs in water. Finally, in contribution to developing an in vivo fiberoptic system for sensing MMP activity, the QDs were successfully tethered to silica and MMP detection was demonstrated with the peptide/QD conjugates.


Biomarkers, Nanoscience, Quantum Dots, Nanocrystals, Cytotoxicity, Bioconjugation, Synthesis, Characterization, Matrix Metalloproteinase

Document Type




Degree Name

Nanoscience and Microsystems

Level of Degree


Department Name

Nanoscience and Microsystems

First Advisor

Osinski, Marek

First Committee Member (Chair)

Osinski, Marek

Second Committee Member

Balakrishnan, Ganesh

Third Committee Member

Milligan, Erin

Fourth Committee Member

Hossein-Zadeh, Mani