Introduction: Near-infrared ray (NIR)-responsive 'smart' nanoagents allow spatial and temporal control over the drug delivery process, noninvasively, without affecting healthy tissues and therefore they possess high potential for on-demand, targeted drug/gene delivery. Various NIR-responsive drug/gene delivery techniques are under investigation for peripheral disorders (especially for cancer). Nonetheless, their potential not been extensively examined for brain biomedical application.
Areas covered: This review focuses on NIR-responsive characteristics of different NIR-nanobiophotonics-based nanoagents and associated drug delivery strategies. Together with their ongoing applications for peripheral drug delivery, we have highlighted the opportunities, challenges and possible solutions of NIR-nanobiophotonics for potential brain drug delivery.
Expert opinion: NIR-nanobiophotonics can be considered superior among all photo-controlled drug/gene delivery approaches. Future work should focus on coupling NIR with biocompatible nanocarriers to determine the physiological compatibility of this approach. Their applications should be extended beyond the peripheral body region to brain region. Transient or intermittent NIR exposure strategies may be more accommodating for brain physiological ambience in order to minimize or avoid the possible deleterious thermal effect. In addition, while most studies are centered around the first NIR spectral window (700-1000 nm), the potential of second (1100-1350 nm) and third (1600-1870 nm) windows must be explored.
Keywords: Near infrared ray (NIR); and neuro-disorders; biophotonics; brain; cancer; drug delivery; nanoparticles.