Smart-Dust-Nanorice for Enhancement of Endogenous Raman Signal, Contrast in Photoacoustic Imaging, and T2-Shortening in Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Small. 2018 May;14(19):e1703683. doi: 10.1002/smll.201703683. Epub 2018 Apr 10.


Raman microspectroscopy provides chemo-selective image contrast, sub-micrometer resolution, and multiplexing capabilities. However, it suffers from weak signals resulting in image-acquisition times of up to several hours. Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) can dramatically enhance signals of molecules in close vicinity of metallic surfaces and overcome this limitation. Multimodal, SERS-active nanoparticles are usually labeled with Raman marker molecules, limiting SERS to the coating material. In order to realize multimodal imaging while acquiring the rich endogenous vibronic information of the specimen, a core-shell particle based on "Nanorice", where a spindle-shaped iron oxide core is encapsulated by a closed gold shell, is developed. An ultrathin layer of silica prevents agglomeration and unwanted chemical interaction with the specimen. This approach provides Raman signal enhancement due to plasmon resonance effects of the shell while the optical absorption in the near-infrared spectral region provides contrast in photoacoustic tomography. Finally, T2-relaxation of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) experiment is altered by taking advantage of the iron oxide core. The feasibility for Raman imaging is evaluated by nearfield simulations and experimental studies on the primate cell line COS1. MRI and photoacoustics are demonstrated in agarose phantoms illustrating the promising translational nature of this strategy for clinical applications in radiology.

Keywords: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); molecular imaging; photoacoustic imaging; radiology; surface-enhanced Raman scattering.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COS Cells
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Computer Simulation
  • Contrast Media / chemistry*
  • Dust*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Nanoparticles / ultrastructure
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Photoacoustic Techniques / methods*
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman*


  • Contrast Media
  • Dust