Protein Microspheres with Unique Green and Red Autofluorescence for Noninvasively Tracking and Modeling Their in Vivo Biodegradation

Xiaoyu Ma, Taoran Wang, Donghui Song, Derek Hargrove, Qiuchen Dong, Zhu Luo, Jun Chen, Xiuling Lu, Yangchao Luo, Tai Hsi Fan*, Yu Lei

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Bovine serum albumin (BSA) microspheres were prepared through a facile and low-cost route including a high-speed dispersion of BSA in cross-linking solution followed by spray drying. Interestingly the as-prepared BSA microspheres possess unique blue-green, green, green-yellow, and red fluorescence when excited by specific wavelengths of laser or LED light. The studies of UV-visible reflectance spectra and fluorescence emission spectra indicated that four classes of fluorescent compounds are presumably formed during the fabrication processes. The formation and the potential contributors for the unique green and red autofluorescence were also discussed and proposed though the exact structures of the fluorophores formed remain elusive due to the complexity of the protein system. The effect of spray-drying conditions on the morphology of spray-dried samples was investigated and optimized. FTIR was further employed to characterize the formation of the functional groups in the as-prepared autofluorescent microspheres. Good in vitro and in vivo biocompatibility was demonstrated by the cytotoxicity test on the A549 cancer cells and tissue histological analysis, respectively. The autofluorescent BSA microspheres themselves were then applied as a novel tracer for convenient tracking/modeling of the biodegradation of autofluorescent BSA microspheres injected into mouse model based on noninvasive, time-dependent fluorescence images of the mice, in which experimental data are in good agreement with the proposed mathematical model. All these studies indicate that the as-developed protein microspheres exhibiting good biocompatibility, biodegradability, and unique autofluorescence, can significantly broaden biomedical applications of fluorescent protein particles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)954-962
Number of pages9
JournalACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • autofluorescent BSA microspheres
  • biocompatibility
  • biodegradability
  • mathematical model
  • noninvasive imaging

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