Gold Nanorod-Melanin Hybrids for Enhanced and Prolonged Photoacoustic Imaging in the Near-Infrared-II Window

Wonjun Yim, Jiajing Zhou, Yash Mantri, Matthew N. Creyer, Colman A. Moore, Jesse V. Jokerst
ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces2021
Photoacoustic (PA) imaging holds great promise as a noninvasive imaging modality. Gold nanorods (GNRs) with absorption in the second near-infrared (NIR-II) window have emerged as excellent PA probes because of their tunable optical absorption, surface modifiability, and low toxicity. However, pristine GNRs often undergo shape transition upon laser illumination due to thermodynamic instability, leading to a reduced PA signal after a few seconds of imaging. Here, we report monodisperse GNR-melanin nanohybrids where a tunable polydopamine (PDA) coating was conformally coated on GNRs. GNR@PDAs showed a threefold higher PA signal than pristine GNRs due to the increased optical absorption, cross-sectional area, and thermal confinement. More importantly, the PA signal of GNR@PDAs only decreased by 29% during the 5 min of laser illumination in the NIR-II window, while significant attenuation (77%) was observed for GNRs. The GNR@PDAs maintained 87% of its original PA signal in vivo even after 10 min of laser illumination. This PDA-enabled strategy affords a rational design for robust PA imaging probes and provides more opportunities for other types of photomediated biomedicines, such as photothermal and photodynamic regimens.

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