The BGNP colloidal suspension was prepared by slightly modifying previously reported methods [27,31,32]. Briefly, 15-nm gold seeds were first synthesized by adding 4.5 mL of trisodium citrate (34 mM, 0.15 mmol) to 150 mL of HAuCl4⋅3H2O (0.038 mmol, 0.25 mM) in a boiling solution. After 30 min, the mixture was let cooled to RT, stirred overnight, and filtered through 0.2-µm syringe filters.

Then, 120 µL of HAuCl4⋅3H2O (95 mM), 72 µL of the prepared seeds, 280 µL of trisodium citrate (34 mM), and 280 µL of hydroquinone (140 mM) were subsequently added to 96 mL of ultraclean deionized H2O under vigorous stirring. After 2 min, 30 µL of O-(2-carboxyethyl)-O′-(2-mercaptoethyl) heptaethylene glycol was added to the colloidal suspension and the mixture was stirred for 6 h. The pegylated BGNPs were finally filtered through 0.4-µm syringe filters and purified from the free ligands by several washing cycles using centrifugal filters.

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