Determination of biodistribution of ultrasmall, near-infrared emitting gold nanoparticles by photoacoustic and fluorescence imaging

Wilson Poon, Andrew Heinmiller, Xuan Zhang, Jay L. Nadeau
Journal of Biomedical Optics2015
This study compares fluorescence and photoacoustic (PA) imaging of ex vivo tumors and organs from tumor-bearing mice injected intravenously with ultrasmall (<3 nm) tiopronin-capped Au nanoparticles and com- pares the data with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Good agreement is seen in particle distributions and concentrations at the organ level. The spatial resolution from the imaging techniques allows for localization of the particles within organ structures. Although the particles do not have a plasmon peak, their absorbance in the near-infrared (NIR) is sufficient for PA excitation. PA imaging shows an increase of signal as particle concentrations increase, with changes in spectrum if particles aggregate. Fluorescence imaging using the particles’ native NIR emission shows agreement in general intensity in each organ, though quenching of emission can be seen at very high concentrations. Both of these imaging techniques are noninvasive and labor-saving alternatives to organ digestion and ICP-MS and may provide insight into cellular distribution of particles. The simple construct avoids the use of toxic semiconductor materials or dyes, relying upon the gold itself for both the fluorescence and PA signal. This provides a useful alternative to more complex approaches to multimodal imaging and one that is readily translatable to the clinic.

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