Synthesis and Testing of Modular Dual-Modality Nanoparticles for Magnetic Resonance and Multispectral Photoacoustic Imaging

Bioconjug Chem. 2016 Feb 17;27(2):383-90. doi: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.5b00633. Epub 2015 Dec 10.


Magnetic resonance (MR) and photoacoustic (PA) imaging are currently being investigated as complementing strategies for applications requiring sensitive detection of cells in vivo. While combined MR/PAI detection of cells requires biocompatible cell labeling probes, water-based synthesis of dual-modality MR/PAI probes presents significant technical challenges. Here we describe facile synthesis and characterization of hybrid modular dextran-stabilized gold/iron oxide (Au-IO) multimetallic nanoparticles (NP) enabling multimodal imaging of cells. The stable association between the IO and gold NP was achieved by priming the surface of dextran-coated IO with silver NP resulting from silver(I) reduction by aldehyde groups, which are naturally present within the dextran coating of IO at the level of 19-23 groups/particle. The Au-IO NP formed in the presence of silver-primed Au-IO were stabilized by using partially thiolated MPEG5-gPLL graft copolymer carrying residual amino groups. This stabilizer served as a carrier of near-infrared fluorophores (e.g., IRDye 800RS) for multispectral PA imaging. Dual modality imaging experiments performed in capillary phantoms of purified Au-IO-800RS NPs showed that these NPs were detectible using 3T MRI at a concentration of 25 μM iron. PA imaging achieved approximately 2.5-times higher detection sensitivity due to strong PA signal emissions at 530 and 770 nm, corresponding to gold plasmons and IRDye integrated into the coating of the hybrid NPs, respectively, with no "bleaching" of PA signal. MDA-MB-231 cells prelabeled with Au-IO-800RS retained plasma membrane integrity and were detectable by using both MR and dual-wavelength PA at 49 ± 3 cells/imaging voxel. We believe that modular assembly of multimetallic NPs shows promise for imaging analysis of engineered cells and tissues with high resolution and sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Contrast Media / chemistry*
  • Contrast Media / pharmacokinetics
  • Dextrans / chemistry*
  • Dextrans / pharmacokinetics
  • Ferric Compounds / chemistry*
  • Ferric Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Gold / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Metal Nanoparticles
  • Multimodal Imaging / methods
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Photoacoustic Techniques / methods*


  • Contrast Media
  • Dextrans
  • Ferric Compounds
  • ferric oxide
  • Gold