Conventional imaging technologies (X-ray computed tomography, magnetic resonance, and optical) depend on contrast agents to visualize a target site or organ of interest. The imaging agents currently used in clinics for diagnosis suffer from disadvantages including poor target specificity and in vivo instability. Consequently, delivery of low concentrations of contrast agents to region of interest affects image quality. Therefore, it is important to selectively deliver high payload of contrast agent to obtain clinically useful images. Nanoparticles offer multifunctional capabilities to transport high concentrations of imaging probes selectively to diseased site inside the body. Polymeric nanoparticles, incorporated with contrast agents, have shown significant benefits in molecular imaging applications. These materials possess the ability to encapsulate different contrast agents within a single matrix enabling multimodal imaging possibilities. The materials can be surface conjugated to target-specific biomolecules for controlling the navigation under in vivo conditions. The versatility of this class of nanomaterials makes them an attractive platform for developing highly sensitive molecular imaging agents. The research community's progress in the area of synthesis of polymeric nanomaterials and their in vivo imaging applications has been noteworthy, but it is still in the pioneer stage of development. The challenges ahead should focus on the design and fabrication of these materials including burst release of contrasts agents, solubility, and stability issues of polymeric nanomaterials.

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Conflict of interest: The authors declare no competing financial interest.