• microbubble;
  • nanobubble;
  • nanocapsule;
  • nanoballoon;
  • photoacoustic imaging;
  • ultrasonography;
  • fluorescence;
  • multimodal imaging;
  • conjugation;
  • drug delivery

Photoacoustic imaging is an emerging imaging modality for noninvasive detection of tissue structural and functional anomalies. Multifunctional microbubbles (MBs) and nanobubbles (NBs) are contrast agents integrating multiple disease-targeting, imaging and therapeutic functions. Multifunctional MBs and NBs represent an enabling technology for many potential applications in the field of photoacoustic imaging. Highly absorbing optical contrast agents, such as gold nanoparticles, India ink and Indocyanine Green, can be encapsulated in MBs and NBs for stable absorption properties and multimodal imaging contrasts. The surface of MBs and NBs can be modified for high disease-targeting affinity, reduced immunogenicity and prolonged circulation lifetime. Low boiling point perfluorocarbon compounds can be encapsulated in MBs and NBs for selective activation by external energy sources. The activation of these MBs and NBs may introduce significant contrast enhancement and facilitate a variety of potential clinical applications, such as image-guided drug delivery and therapeutic margin assessment. MB and NB enhanced photoacoustic imaging is still in its infancy. Further development and validation works are necessary for successful translation of the technology from the benchtop to the bedside. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.