Gold nanoparticle cellular uptake and its implications for cancer therapy

  • Aaron McCulloch

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


For those suffering from cancer nanoparticle-enhanced radiotherapy has shown great potential as a means to improve patient outcome. In order to maximise the benefit obtained from such treatment a full understanding of the uptake dynamics of nanoparticles is required. As such the aim of this body of work is to conceptualise and experimentally demonstrate novel approaches to probe the uptake of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) in cancer cells.

In the first study a technique is developed to probe the temporal dynamics of AuNP uptake by performing multiphoton fluorescence-lifetime imaging microscopy (MP-FLIM) on live cells. Using this technique and subsequent analysis methods multiple datasets were obtained showing the association of AuNPs with the cell membrane in real-time. This study then goes on to provide a means to quantify this behaviour.

The second study details the development of a novel X-ray fluorescence microscopy technique to investigate the uptake of AuNPs spatially on a sub-cellular level. Particularly, an emphasis is placed on providing a means to unambiguously determine if nuclear uptake of AuNPs has taken place. Using this technique this study reports the first unambiguous evidence of individually resolved AuNPs within an intact cell nucleus.
Date of AwardJul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorBrendan Dromey (Supervisor) & Kevin Prise (Supervisor)


  • Nanomedicine
  • gold nanoparticles
  • AuNP
  • microscopy
  • FLIM
  • fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy
  • x-ray fluorescence microscopy
  • XRF microscopy
  • cellular uptake
  • nanoparticles
  • radiotherapy
  • cancer
  • imaging
  • 3D reconstruction

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