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  • Postdoctoral Fellowship – University of Miami, Miami, Florida
  • Ph.D. – University of Miami, Miami, Florida
  • M.Sc. – Sun Yatsen University, Guangzhou, P.R. China
  • B.Sc. – University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, P.R. China


  • 2014-present – Graduate Program Coordinator, NSTC, University of Central Florida
  • 2005-present – Associate Professor, University of Central Florida
  • 2001-2005 – Assistant Professor, North Dakota State University

Research Summary

Our group specializes on the development and use of gold nanoparticles for biomedical and bioanalytical applications. We invented a nanoparticle-enabled dynamic light scattering assay (NanoDLSay) for chemical and biological detection and analysis (see below for an illustration). This technique detects the target analytes by monitoring gold nanoparticle size change upon specific binding with the target molecules and species using dynamic light scattering. This technique has so far been successfully applied for a wide range of analytes, including proteins, DNAs, viruses, toxic metal ions, and small chemicals with high to ultra-high sensitivity and excellent reproducibility. We are currently applying this technique for early cancer detection and research. We collaborate with researchers from UCF College of Medicine, MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando, Florida Hospital Cancer Institute on various projects related to prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer and pancreatic cancer detection and diagnosis.

Principle of NanoDLSay Technique

Principle of NanoDLSay Technique
Principle of NanoDLSay Technique

Research News Highlight

  • Dr. Huo’s former student, Lauren Austin, has been recognized for her scientific achievements by Chemical and Engineering News magazine. Read the full article.
  • Dr. Huo has just published a paper on cancer detection using gold nanoparticles, “Gold nanoparticle-enabled blood test for early stage cancer detection and risk assessment”. Read the full article.
  • Dr. Huo’s recent article published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces on protein-gold nanoparticle interaction study is featured on the cover of the journal. Read the full article.

Current Funding

  • College of Science Seed Grant, 2014-2016, Clinical validation study of a new molecular test for aggressive prostate cancer screening

Previous Funding (within the last 5 years)

  • National Science Foundation CAREER award (PI) DMR 0239424 and 0552295: Gold nanoparticles with single surface functional groups: Synthesis and Study
  • National Science Foundation NIRT award (PI) DMI 0506531: NIRT: Total chemical synthesis, property and modeling studies of nanoparticle/polymer hybrid materials
  • Florida Department of Health, Bankhead-Coley Foundation 09BB-09 (PI): Development of a Homogeneous Immunoassay for Cancer Biomarker Detection
  • Florida Department of Health, Bankhead-Coley Foundation 09BC-02 (Co-PI): Development of a New Bioanalytical Instrument for Biomolecular Research and Diagnosis

Research Projects

  • Gold nanoparticle-enabled dynamic light scattering assay (NanoDLSay) for chemical and biological detection and analysisA major focus of our research is the development of a gold nanoparticle-enabled dynamic light scattering assay (NanoDLSay) technique for chemical and biomolecule detection and analysis. This technique enables the detection of almost any chemical and biological target analytes in a washing-free and label-free format. NanoDLSay detects target analytes by measuring the average particle size change of the assay solution upon binding of target analytes with gold nanoparticle probes. This technique is extremely simple, low cost, and fast. NanoDLSay has so far been successfully applied by us and other groups for quantitative detection and analysis of a wide range of chemical and biological targets, including proteins, DNAs, viruses, carbohydrates, small chemicals, toxic metal ions, food and environmental toxins. The excellent analytical performance of NanoDLSay such as sensitivity and reproducibility and its broad applications is demonstrated in more than 40 peer-reviewed papers by our group and other research groups. Our initial work published in J. Am. Chem. Soc. in 2008, has been cited close to ~350 times. Two patents have been granted from USA and P.R. China on NanoDLSay technique.(1) Liu, X.; Dai, Q.; Austin, L.; Coutts, J.; Knowles, G.; Zou, J.; Chen, H.; Huo, Q. A One-step homogeneous immunoassay for cancer biomarker detection using gold nanoparticle probes coupled with dynamic light scattering. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 130, 2780-2782 (2008, cited ~350 times).(2) Dai, Q.; Liu, X.; Coutts, J.; Austin, L.; Huo, Q. A one-step highly sensitive method for DNA detection using dynamic light scattering. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 130, 8138-8139 (2008, cited ~110 times).(3) Jans, H.; Liu, X.; Austin, L.; Maes, G.; Huo, Q. Dynamic light scattering as a powerful tool for gold nanoparticle bioconjugation and biomolecular binding study. Anal. Chem. 81, 9425-9432 (2009, cited ~140 times).(4) Patents and patent applications (patents licensed to Nano Discovery Inc.):(i) US Patent, US8,883,094 B2, Detection of analytes using metal nanoparticle probes and dynamic light scattering.(ii) Same patent as (i), claims on methods granted from China, patent number: ZL2009 80 107557.2(iii) US patent application, 13/522,391, filed on 01/12/2011, Method for biomolecule and biomolecular complex (BMC) detection and analysis and the use of such for research and medical diagnosis.
  • NanoDLSay technique for cancer biomarker discovery and cancer detectionThe second major focus of our research is to apply the NanoDLSay technique for new cancer biomarker discovery through the study of protein interactions with gold nanoparticles. From our study, we discovered and demonstrated that the protein corona formed through the adsorption of proteins from blood or tissue lysates to citrate-capped gold nanoparticles may reveal cancer status. Using NanoDLSay technique, we developed a very simple blood test with demonstrated clinical potential for early stage cancer detection and screening. In our paper published in J. Trans. Med. (2012), we show that the nanoparticle test can reveal the aggressiveness of prostate tumor. In our most recent clinical studies, we further discovered that the amount of circulating antibody, believed to be tumor-associated autoantibodies, is increased in the protein corona of early stage cancer patients’ blood sera. Proteomic analysis provided further evidence that mining the molecular composition of the nanoparticle protein corona could be a very productive approach for new cancer biomarker discovery.We have been and are collaborating with several clinical centers and hospitals including Florida Hospital, VA Medical Center in Orlando, Prostate Cancer Biorespository Network and Johns Hopkins University to conduct further clinical validation studies on our new test.(1) Huo, Q.; Litherland, S.A.; Sullivan, S.; Hallquist, H.; Decker, D.A.; Rivera-Ramirez, I. Developing a nanoparticle test for prostate cancer scoring. J. Translational Medicine, 10:44 (2012).(2) Huo, Q.; Cordero, A.; Bogdanovic, J.; Colon, J.; Baker, C.H.; Goodison, S.; Pensky, M. A facile nanoparticle immunoassay for cancer biomarker discovery. J. Nanobiotechnology, 9:20 (2011).(3) Zhang, S.; Moustafa, Y.; Huo, Q. Different interaction modes of biomolecules with citrate-capped gold nanoparticles. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 6, 21184-21192 (2014). (featured on the cover)(4) Zheng, T.; Pierre-Pierre, N.; Yan, X.; Huo, Q.; Valerio, F.; Rivera-Ramirez, I.; Griffith, E.; Decker, D.D.; Chen, S.; Zhu, N. A Gold nanoparticle-enabled blood test for early stage cancer detection and risk assessment. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, submitted in January 2015, under review (2015).
  • Gold nanoparticle and dynamic light scattering for the study of cancer and other biomedical research problemsThe third focus of our research is to apply gold nanoparticles, dynamic light scattering and NanoDLSay technique to study cancer or other biomedical research problems. These studies have resulted in 3 joint publications for cancer treatment and study. Of particular importance, we developed a new general assay for biomolecular complex detection and analysis. Using this assay, we discovered a new triple-protein complex from pancreatic cancer cells (Jaganathan et al.).(1) Jaganathan, S.; Yue, P.; Paladino, D.C.; Bogdanovic, J.; Huo, Q.; Turkson, J. A functional nuclear epidermal growth factor receptor, Src and Stat3 heteromeric complex in pancreatic cancer cells. PLoS One, 6(5):e19605 (2011).(2) Bogdanovic, J.; Colon, J.; Baker, C.; Huo, Q. A label-free nanoparticle aggregation assay for protein complex/aggregate detection and analysis. Anal. Biochem. 45, 96-102, (2010).(3) Liu, X.; Lloyd, M.; Fedorenko, I.V.; Bapat, P.; Zhukov, T.; Huo, Q. Accelerated photothermalysis of A549 human lung cancer cells by gold nanospheres under laser irradiation. Nanomedicine, 3, 617-626 (2008).(4) Davila, M.; Robles-Carrilo, L; Unruh, D.; Huo, Q.; Gardiner, C; Sargent, I.L.; Adam, M.; Woodhams, B.J.; Francis, J.L.; Bogdanov, V.Y.; Amirkhosravi, A. Microparticle association and heterogeneity of tumor-derived tissue factor in plasma: is it important for coagulation activation? J. Thrombosis Haemostasis, 12, 186-196 (2014).



  • Organic Chemistry I and II
  • Bioanalytical Technology (PSM Nanotechnology program)

Awards, Honors and Memberships

2008-presentNational Institute of Health (NIH) panel review member
2010Florida State University System, Scholar Boost Award
2010-presentAssociate Editor, Reviews in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (RNN)
2008Natural Science Foundation of China Oversea Young Investigator award
2006-presentAssociate Editor, Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces (Elsevier)
2006US-Japan Young Researcher Exchange Program for Nanotechnology and Nanomanufacturing delegation team (sponsored by NSF and Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology)
2005National Science Foundation NIRT award (PI)
2003National Science Foundation CAREER award (PI)


  • Member, American Chemical Society
  • Member, American Association for Cancer Research