Folate functionalized nanoparticles (NPs) that contain fluorogens with aggregation-induced emission (AIE) characteristics are fabricated to show bright far-red/near-infrared fluorescence, a large two-photon absorption cross section and low cytotoxicity, which are internalized into MCF-7 cancer cells mainly through caveolae-mediated endocytosis. One-photon excited in vivo fluorescence imaging illustrates that these AIE NPs can accumulate in a tumor and two-photon excited ex vivo tumor tissue imaging reveals that they can be easily detected in the tumor mass at a depth of 400 μm. These studies indicate that AIE NPs are promising alternatives to conventional TPA probes for biological imaging.
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