Indocyanine Green J Aggregates in Polymersomes for Near-Infrared Photoacoustic Imaging

Behzad, Changalvaie, Sangheon, Han, Ehsan, Moaseri, Federica, Scaletti, Lauren, Truong, Rosalie, Caplan, Alice, Cao, Richard, Bouchard, Thomas M., Truskett, Konstantin V., Sokolov, Keith P., Johnston

ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces |

Clinical translation of photoacoustic imaging (PAI) has been limited by the lack of near-infrared (NIR) contrast agents with low toxicity required for regulatory approval. Herein, J aggregates of indocyanine green (ICG) with strong NIR absorbance were encapsulated at high loadings within small 77 nm polymersomes (nanocapsules) composed of poly(lactide-co-glycolide-b-poly(ethylene glycol)) (PLGA-b-PEG) bilayers, thus enabling PAI of of breast and ovarian cancer cells with high specificity and a sensitivity at the level of ∼100 total cells. All of the major components of the polymersomes are FDA approved and used in the clinic. During formation of polymersomes with a water-in-oil-in-water double emulsion process, loss of ICG from the ICG J aggregates was minimized by coating them with a layer of branched polyethylenimine and by providing excess "sacrificial" ICG to adsorb at the oil-water interfaces. The encapsulated J aggregates were protected against dissociation by the polymersome shell for 24 h in 100% fetal bovine serum, after which the polymersomes biodegraded and the J aggregates dissociated to ICG monomers.