Tunable Semiconducting Polymer Nanoparticles with INDT-Based Conjugated Polymers for Photoacoustic Molecular Imaging.

15 Feb 2018

Photoacoustic imaging combines both excellent spatial resolution with high contrast and specificity, without the need for patients to be exposed to ionizing radiation. This makes it ideal for the study of physiological changes occurring during tumorigenesis and cardiovascular disease. In order to fully exploit the potential of this technique, new exogenous contrast agents with strong absorbance in the near-infrared range, good stability and biocompatibility, are required. In this paper, we report the formulation and characterization of a novel series of endogenous contrast agents for photoacoustic imaging in vivo. These contrast agents are based on a recently reported series of indigoid π-conjugated organic semiconductors, coformulated with 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine, to give semiconducting polymer nanoparticles of about 150 nm diameter. These nanoparticles exhibited excellent absorption in the near-infrared region, with good photoacoustic signal generation efficiencies, high photostability, and extinction coefficients of up to three times higher than those previously reported. The absorption maximum is conveniently located in the spectral region of low absorption of chromophores within human tissue. Using the most promising semiconducting polymer nanoparticle, we have demonstrated wavelength-dependent differential contrast between vasculature and the nanoparticles, which can be used to unambiguously discriminate the presence of the contrast agent in vivo.