Early detection of cancer greatly increases the chances of a simpler and more effective treatment. Traditional imaging techniques are often limited by shallow penetration, low sensitivity, low specificity, poor spatial resolution or the use of ionizing radiation. Hybrid modalities, like optoacoustic imaging, an emerging molecular imaging modality, contribute to improving most of these limitations. However, this imaging method is hindered by relatively low signal contrast. Here, gold nanoprisms (AuNPrs) are used as signal amplifiers in multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) to visualize gastrointestinal cancer. PEGylated AuNPrs are successfully internalized by HT-29 gastrointestinal cancer cells in vitro. Moreover, the particles show good biocompatibility and exhibit a surface plasmon band centered at 830 nm, a suitable wavelength for optoacoustic imaging purposes. These findings extend well to an in vivo setting, in which mice are injected with PEGylated AuNPrs in order to visualize tumor angiogenesis in gastrointestinal cancer cells. Overall, both our in vitro and in vivo results show that PEGylated AuNPrs have the capacity to penetrate tumors and provide a high-resolution signal amplifier for optoacoustic imaging. The combination of PEGylated AuNPrs and MSOT represents a significant advance for the in vivo imaging of cancers.
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