Macrophages mediate atheroma expansion and disruption, and denote high-risk arterial plaques. Therefore, they are substantially gaining importance as a diagnostic imaging target for the detection of rupture-prone plaques. Here, we developed an injectable near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) probe by chemically conjugating thiolated glycol chitosan with cholesteryl chloroformate, NIRF dye (cyanine 5.5 or 7), and maleimide-polyethylene glycol-mannose as mannose receptor binding ligands to specifically target a subset of macrophages abundant in high-risk plaques. This probe showed high affinity to mannose receptors, low toxicity, and allowed the direct visualization of plaque macrophages in murine carotid atheroma. After the scale-up of the MMR-NIRF probe, the administration of the probe facilitated in vivo intravascular imaging of plaque inflammation in coronary-sized vessels of atheromatous rabbits using a custom-built dual-modal optical coherence tomography (OCT)-NIRF catheter-based imaging system. This novel imaging approach represents a potential imaging strategy enabling the identification of high-risk plaques in vivo and holds promise for future clinical implications.
ASJC Scopus subject areas