Biomedical photoacoustics beyond thermal expansion using triggered nanodroplet vaporization for contrast-enhanced imaging

Katheryne Wilson, Kimberly Homan, Stanislav Emelianov
Nature Communications2012
Since being discovered by Alexander Bell, photoacoustics may again be seeing major resurgence in biomedical imaging. Photoacoustics is a non-ionizing, functional imaging modality capable of high contrast images of optical absorption at depths significantly greater than traditional optical imaging techniques. Optical contrast agents have been used to extend photoacoustics to molecular imaging. Here we introduce an exogenous contrast agent that utilizes vaporization for photoacoustic signal generation, providing significantly higher signal amplitude than that from the traditionally used mechanism, thermal expansion. Our agent consists of liquid perfluorocarbon nanodroplets with encapsulated plasmonic nanoparticles, entitled photoacoustic nanodroplets. Upon pulsed laser irradiation, liquid perfluorocarbon undergoes a liquid-to-gas phase transition generating giant photoacoustic transients from these dwarf nanoparticles. Once triggered, the gaseous phase provides ultrasound contrast enhancement. We demonstrate in phantom and animal studies that photoacoustic nanodroplets act as dual-contrast agents for both photoacoustic and ultrasound imaging through optically triggered vaporization.
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