Simultaneous enhancement of photothermal stability and gene delivery efficacy of gold nanorods using polyelectrolytes

Huang Chiao Huang, Sutapa Barua, David B. Kay, Kaushal Rege

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

151 Scopus citations


The propensity of nanoparticles to aggregate in aqueous media hinders their effective use in biomedical applications. Gold nanorods (GNRs) have been investigated as therapeutics, imaging agents, and diagnostics. We report that chemically generated gold nanorods rapidly aggregate in biologically relevant media. Depositing polyelectrolyte multilayers on gold nanorods enhanced the stability of these nanoparticles for at least up to 4 weeks. Dispersions of polyelectrolyte (PE)-gold nanorod assemblies (PE-GNRs) demonstrate a stable Arrhenius-like photothermal response, which was exploited for the hyperthermic ablation of prostate cancer cells in vitro. Subtoxic concentrations of PE-GNR assemblies were also employed for delivering exogenous plasmid DNA to prostate cancer cells. PE-GNRs based on a cationic polyelectrolyte recently synthesized in our laboratory demonstrated higher transfection efficacy and lower cytotoxicity compared to those based on polyethyleneimine, a current standard for polymer-mediated gene delivery. Our results indicate that judicious engineering of biocompatible polyelectrolytes leads to multifunctional gold nanorod-based assemblies that combine high stability and low cytotoxicity with photothermal ablation, gene delivery, and optical imaging capabilities on a single platform.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2941-2952
Number of pages12
JournalACS nano
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 27 2009


  • Cationic polymers
  • Gold nanorods
  • Hyperthermia
  • Near-infrared
  • Nonviral gene delivery
  • Photothermal
  • Polyelectrolytes
  • Stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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