Biomedical photoacoustics beyond thermal expansion : photoacoustic nanoDroplets
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The recent increase in survival rates of most cancers is due to early detection greatly aided by medical imaging modalities. Combined ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging provide both morphological and functional/molecular information which can help to detect and diagnose cancer in its earliest stages. However, both modalities can benefit from the use of contrast agents. The objective of this thesis was to design, synthesize, and test a nano-sized, dual contrast agent for combined ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging named Photoacoustic nanoDroplets. This agent consists of liquid perfluorocarbon nanodroplets with encapsulated plasmonic nanoparticles. These dual contrast agents utilize optically triggered vaporization for photoacoustic signal generation, providing significantly higher signal amplitude than that from the traditionally used mechanism, thermal expansion. Upon pulsed laser irradiation, liquid perfluorocarbon undergoes a liquid-to-gas phase transition generating giant photoacoustic transients from these dwarf nanoparticles. Once triggered, the gaseous phase provides ultrasound contrast enhancement. Demonstrated in this work are the design, synthesis, characterization, and testing of Photoacoustic nanoDroplets in phantom and animal studies, and preliminary work into adapting these agents into targeted, drug delivery vehicles for simultaneous detection, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases.