Biomaterials, 2015, 37, 415-424

Dynamic imaging of PEGylated indocyanine green (ICG) liposomes within the tumor microenvironment using multi-spectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT)

Nicolas Beziere^, Neus Lozano^, Antonio Nunes, Juan Salichs, Daniel Queiros, Kostas Kostarelos*, Vasilis Ntziachristos*

Multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) is a powerful modality that allows high-resolution imaging of photo-absorbers deep within tissue, beyond the classical depth and resolution limitations of conventional optical imaging. Imaging of intrinsic tissue contrast can be complemented by extrinsically administered gold nanoparticles or fluorescent molecular probes. Instead, we investigated herein contrast generation from re-engineered clinically-used PEGylated liposomes incorporating indocyanine green (LipoICG) as a contrast strategy that combines materials already approved for clinical use, with strong photo-absorbing signal generation available today only from some metallic nanoparticles (e.g. gold nanorods). Using MSOT we confirmed LipoICG as a highly potent optoacoustic agent and resolved tissue accumulation in tumor-bearing animals over time with high-sensitivity and resolution using two tumor models of different vascularisation. We further showcase a paradigm shift in pharmacology studies and nanoparticle investigation, by enabling detailed volumetric optical imaging in vivo through the entire tumor tissue non-invasively, elucidating never before seen spatiotemporal features of optical agent distribution. These results point to LipoICG as a particle with significant advantageous characteristics over gold nanoparticles and organic dyes.