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Thanks to the chemically tunable sizes and physical (e.g. electronic, photonic and magnetic) properties, nanomaterials are recently being applied as imaging agents or spectroscopic tools to monitor cellular or biological systems. However, unfunctionalized nanomaterials have a perceived, potential risk of cytotoxicity and a typical lack of cell-specific function. Given the distinct roles of glycans in nature, aqueous solubility/dispersability, biocompatibility, and as endogenous ligands, the properties of nanomaterials can be improved and directed by constructing glycosylated hybrids. In this mini-review, recent developments of glyco-nanomaterials including carbon-based nanomaterials, magnetic nanoparticles, and gold nanoparticles will be discussed. © 2011 American Chemical Society.

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