Critical Considerations on the Clinical Translation of Upconversion Nanoparticles (UCNPs): Recommendations from the European Upconversion Network (COST Action CM1403)


The unique photoluminescent properties of upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) have attracted worldwide research interest and inspired many bioanalytical applications. The anti-Stokes emission with long luminescence lifetimes, narrow and multiple absorption and emission bands, and excellent photostability enable background-free and multiplexed detection in deep tissues. So far, however, in vitro and in vivo applications of UCNPs are restricted to the laboratory use due to safety concerns. Possible harmful effects may originate from the chemical composition but also from the small size of UCNPs. Potential end users must rely on well-founded safety data. Thus, a risk to benefit assessment of the envisioned combined therapeutic and diagnostic (theranostic) applications is fundamentally important to bridge the translational gap between laboratory and clinics. The COST Action CM1403 The European Upconversion Network-From the Design of Photon-Upconverting Nanomaterials to Biomedical Applications integrates research on UCNPs ranging from fundamental materials synthesis and research, detection instrumentation, biofunctionalization, and bioassay development to toxicity testing. Such an interdisciplinary approach is necessary for a better and safer theranostic use of UCNPs. Here, the status of nanotoxicity research on UCNPs is compared to other nanomaterials, and routes for the translation of UCNPs into clinical applications are delineated.



subject category

Engineering; Science & Technology - Other Topics; Materials Science


Oliveira, H; Bednarkiewicz, A; Falk, A; Frohlich, E; Lisjak, D; Prina-Mello, A; Resch, S; Schimpel, C; Vrcek, IV; Wysokinska, E; Gorris, HH

our authors



All authors contributed equally to this milestone of COST Action CM1403. The authors acknowledge financial support from the COST Action CM1403 The European Upconversion Network: From the Design of Photon-Upconverting Nanomaterials to Biomedical Applications. H.O. acknowledges the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) awarded grant (SFRH/BPD/111736/2015). D.L. acknowledges financial support from the Slovenian Research Agency (research core funding no P2-0089). A.P.-M. acknowledges financial support from Science Foundation Ireland for the financial support under the AMBER centre under Grant No. SFI/12/RC/2278. I.V.V. acknowledges the Croatian Science Foundation awarded grant (HRZZ-IP-2016-06-2436). H.H.G. acknowledges funding from the German Research Foundation for a Heisenberg Fellowship (DFG, Grant No. GO 1968/5-1).

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