The development of fluorescent biolabels for specific targeting and controlled drug release is of paramount importance in biological applications due to their potential in the generation of novel tools for simultaneous diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in several neurological diseases, such as Parkinson's disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the controlled delivery of its agonists already proved to have beneficial effects both in vitro and in vivo. Here, we report the synthesis and multiple functionalization of highly fluorescent CdSe/CdS quantum rods for specific biolabeling and controlled drug release. After being transferred into aqueous media, the nanocrystals were made highly biocompatible through PEG conjugation and covered by a carbohydrate shell, which allowed specific GLUT-1 recognition. Controlled attachment of dopamine through an ester bond also allowed hydrolysis by esterases, yielding a smart nanotool for specific biolabeling and controlled drug release.
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