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Hybrid micro-/nanogels are playing an increasing important part in a diverse range of applications, due to their tunable dimensions, large surface area, stable interior network structure, and a very short response time. We review recent advances and challenges in the developments of hybrid micro-/nanogels toward applications for optical sensing of pH, temperature, glucose, ions, and other species as well as for intracellular imaging. Due to their unique advantages, hybrid micro-/nanogels as optical probes are attracting substantial interests for continuous monitoring of chemical parameters in complex samples such as blood and bioreactor fluids, in chemical research and industry, and in food quality control. In particular, their intracellular probing ability enables the monitoring of the biochemistry and biophysics of live cells over time and space, thus contributing to the explanation of intricate biological processes and the development of novel diagnoses. Unlike most other probes, hybrid micro-/nanogels could also combine other multiple functions into a single probe. The rational design of hybrid micro-/ nanogels will not only improve the probing applications as desirable, but also implement their applications in new arenas. With ongoing rapid advances in bionanotechnology, the well-designed hybrid micro-/nanogel probes will be able to provide simultaneous sensing, imaging diagnosis, and therapy toward clinical applications.


This article originally appeared in Nano Reviews, available at DOI: 10.3402/nano.v1i0.5730

© 2010 Weitai Wu and Shuiqin Zhou. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License (, permitting all non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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