Graphene quantum dots: From efficient preparation to safe renal excretion

Caroline Hadad, José Miguel González-Domínguez, Silvia Armelloni, Deborah Mattinzoli, Masami Ikehata, Akcan Istif, Adrian Ostric, Francesco Cellesi, Carlo Maria Alfieri, Piergiorgio Messa, Belén Ballesteros, Tatiana Da Ros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Carbon nanomaterials offer excellent prospects as therapeutic agents, and among them, graphene quantum dots (GQDs) have gained considerable interest thanks to their aqueous solubility and intrinsic fluorescence, which enable their possible use in theranostic approaches, if their biocompatibility and favorable pharmacokinetic are confirmed. We prepared ultra-small GQDs using an alternative, reproducible, top-down synthesis starting from graphene oxide with a nearly 100% conversion. The materials were tested to assess their safety, demonstrating good biocompatibility and ability in passing the ultrafiltration barrier using an in vitro model. This leads to renal excretion without affecting the kidneys. Moreover, we studied the GQDs in vivo biodistribution confirming their efficient renal clearance, and we demonstrated that the internalization mechanism into podocytes is caveolae-mediated. Therefore, considering the reported characteristics, it appears possible to vehiculate compounds to kidneys by means of GQDs, overcoming problems related to lysosomal degradation. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)674–683
JournalNano Research
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • biodistribution
  • graphene quantum dots
  • nanocarrier
  • podocytes
  • renal clearance
  • uptake pathway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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