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Facile and green reduction of covalently PEGylated nanographene oxide via a ‘water-only’ route for high-efficiency photothermal therapy

Jingqin Chen1, Xiaoping Wang2 and Tongsheng Chen1*

Author Affiliations

1 MOE Key Laboratory of Laser Life Science and Institute of Laser Life Science, College of Biophotonics, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, People’s Republic of China

2 Department of Pain Management, the First Affiliated Hospital of Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, People’s Republic of China

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2014, 9:86  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-9-86

Published: 18 February 2014


A facile and green strategy is reported for the fabrication of nanosized and reduced covalently PEGylated graphene oxide (nrGO-PEG) with great biocompatibility and high near-infrared (NIR) absorbance. Covalently PEGylated nGO (nGO-PEG) was synthesized by the reaction of nGO-COOH and methoxypolyethylene glycol amine (mPEG-NH2). The neutral and purified nGO-PEG solution was then directly bathed in water at 90°C for 24 h without any additive to obtain nrGO-PEG. Covalent PEGylation not only prevented the aggregation of nGO but also dramatically promoted the reduction extent of nGO during this reduction process. The resulting single-layered nrGO-PEG sheets were approximately 50 nm in average lateral dimension and exhibited great biocompatibility and approximately 7.6-fold increment in NIR absorption. Moreover, this facile reduction process repaired the aromatic structure of GO. CCK-8 and flow cytometry (FCM) assays showed that exposure of A549 cells to 100 μg/mL of nrGO-PEG for 2 h, exhibiting 71.5% of uptake ratio, did not induce significant cytotoxicity. However, after irradiation with 808 nm laser (0.6 W/cm2) for 5 min, the cells incubated with 6 μg/mL of nrGO-PEG solution showed approximately 90% decrease of cell viability, demonstrating the high-efficiency photothermal therapy of nrGO-PEG to tumor cells in vitro. This work established nrGO-PEG as a promising photothermal agent due to its small size, great biocompatibility, high photothermal efficiency, and low cost.

Graphene oxide; Covalent functionalization; Green reduction; Near-infrared absorbance; Bioapplication; Photothermal therapy