Author(s): Vinoin Devpaul Vincely, Swathi P. Katakam, Kristie Huda, Xingjian Zhong, Joshua C. Kays, Allison M. Dennis, Carolyn L. Bayer


Transabdominal imaging using photoacoustics (PA) is limited by optical attenuation of tissue due to high scattering and absorption in the near infrared (NIR) window. Tissue attenuation is lowered when imaging with longer wavelengths in the NIR window (> 950 nm). However, intrinsic optical contrast is limited in this range and exogenous agents such as gold nanorods (AuNRs) prove popular alternatives. AuNRs have unique optical absorption peaks, due to localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR), which allow tuning to wavelengths with minimal tissue attenuation. However, AuNRs tend to be bulky (> 50 nm) when adjusting peak LSPR to deep NIR wavelengths leading to poor clearance. In this study, we explored PA signal generation of a biodegradable and biocompatible semiconductor contrast agent – Cu-Fe (bornite) nanocrystals. The semiconductor nature of the nanocrystals allows for particles to be small (3-8 nm) facilitating excretion through kidneys. Here, PA signal generation of bornite was compared to two conventional photoacoustic contrast agents – AuNRs and indocyanine green dye. We found that at similar mass concentrations, bornite generated PA signal 5× greater than AuNRs. In-vivo imaging of bornite showed a 2x increase in sensitivity compared to AuNRs at similar volume concentrations.