Molecular specific photoacoustic imaging using plasmonic gold nanoparticles
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Cancer has become one of the leading causes of death today. The early detection of cancer may lead to desired therapeutic management of cancer and to decrease the mortality rate through effective therapeutic strategies. Advances in materials science have enabled the use of nanoparticles for added contrast in various imaging techniques. More recently there has been much interest in the use of gold nanoparticles as optical contrast agents because of their strong absorption and scattering properties at visible and near-infrared wavelengths. Highly proliferative cancer cells overexpress molecular markers such as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). When specifically targeted gold nanoparticles bind to EGFR they tend to cluster thus leading to an optical red-shift of the plasmon resonances and an increase in absorption in the red region. These changes in optical properties provide the foundation for photoacoustic imaging technique to differentiate cancer cells from surrounding benign cells. In photoacoustic imaging, contrast mechanism is based on the optical absorption properties of the tissue constituents. Studies were performed on tissue phantoms, ex-vivo and in-vivo tumor models to evaluate molecular specific photoacoustic imaging technique. The results indicate that highly sensitive and selective detection of cancer cells can be achieved by utilizing the plasmon resonance coupling effect of EGFR targeted gold nanoparticles and photoacoustic imaging. In conclusion, the combined ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging technique has the ability to image molecular signature of cancer using bioconjugated gold nanoparticles.