Biotemplated nanomaterials offer versatile functionality for multimodal imaging, biosensing, and drug delivery. There remains an unmet need for traceable and biocompatible nanomaterials that can be synthesized in a precisely controllable manner. Here, we report self-assembled quantum dot DNA hydrogels that exhibit both size and spectral tunability. We successfully incorporate DNA-templated quantum dots with high quantum yield, long-term photostability, and low cytotoxicity into a hydrogel network in a single step. By leveraging DNA-guided interactions, we introduce multifunctionality for a variety of applications, including enzyme-responsive drug delivery and cell-specific targeting. We report that quantum dot DNA hydrogels can be used for delivery of doxorubicin, an anticancer drug, to increase potency 9-fold against cancer cells. This approach also demonstrated high biocompatibility, trackability, and in vivo therapeutic efficacy in mice bearing xenografted breast cancer tumors. This work paves the way for the development of new tunable biotemplated nanomaterials with multiple synergistic functionalities for biomedical applications.The development of nanomaterials for imaging and drug delivery has been of great interest to the field. Here, the authors synthesized multifunctional enzyme-responsive hydrogels with self-assembling quantum dots for nucleic acid and drug delivery as well as having imaging capability.
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