Unravelling the potential of graphene quantum dots in biomedicine and neuroscience

Giordano Perini, Valentina Palmieri, Gabriele Ciasca, Marco De Spirito, Massimiliano Papi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Quantum dots (QDs) are semiconducting nanoparticles that have been gaining ground in various applications, including the biomedical field, thanks to their unique optical properties. Recently, graphene quantum dots (GQDs) have earned attention in biomedicine and nanomedicine, thanks to their higher biocompatibility and low cytotoxicity compared to other QDs. GQDs share the optical properties of QD and have proven ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). For this reason, GQDs are now being employed to deepen our knowledge in neuroscience diagnostics and therapeutics. Their size and surface chemistry that ease the loading of chemotherapeutic drugs, makes them ideal drug delivery systems through the bloodstream, across the BBB, up to the brain. GQDs-based neuroimaging techniques and theranostic applications, such as photothermal and photodynamic therapy alone or in combination with chemotherapy, have been designed. In this review, optical properties and biocompatibility of GQDs will be described. Then, the ability of GQDs to overtake the BBB and reach the brain will be discussed. At last, applications of GQDs in bioimaging, photophysical therapies and drug delivery to the central nervous system will be considered, unraveling their potential in the neuroscientific field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3712
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - May 2 2020


  • Blood brain barrier
  • Graphene
  • Quantum dots
  • Theranostics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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