Photoacoustic imaging of cancer cells with glycol-chitosan-coated gold nanoparticles as contrast agents

In Cheol Sun, Cheol Hee Ahn, Kwangmeyung Kim, Stanislav Emelianov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Utility of glycol-chitosan-coated gold nanoparticles (GC-AuNPs) as a photoacoustic contrast agent for cancer cell imaging was demonstrated. Through the synergistic effect of glycol chitosan and gold nanoparticles, GC-AuNPs showed cellular uptake in breast cancer cells and resulted in strong photoacoustic signals in tissue-mimicking cell phantoms. The performance of GC-AuNPs as contrast agents was established with photoacoustic imaging and confirmed with dark-field microscopy. The cell phantoms displayed strong photoacoustic signals if cells were incubated more than 3 h with GC-AuNPs, compared with PEG-AuNPs that showed no photoacoustic signal increase. The enhanced photoacoustic signals originated from the plasmon coupling effect of GC-AuNPs after the cellular uptake in cancer cells. Importantly, photoacoustic imaging of cancer cells was achieved with GC-AuNPs-contrast agents that did not require antibodies or complex surface modification. The endocytosis of GC-AuNPs was also confirmed with dark-field microscopy. The results show that GC-AuNPs have potential as a photoacoustic contrast agent for cellular imaging including tumor tissue imaging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of biomedical optics
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Aug 1
Externally publishedYes



  • cancer imaging
  • contrast agent
  • glycol chitosan
  • gold nanoparticles
  • photoacoustic imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Biomaterials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomedical Engineering

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