Quinone-fused porphyrins as contrast agents for photoacoustic imaging†
Photoacoustic (PA) imaging is an emerging non-invasive diagnostic modality with many potential clinical applications in oncology, rheumatology and the cardiovascular field. For this purpose, there is a high demand for exogenous contrast agents with high absorption coefficients in the optical window for tissue imaging, i.e. the near infrared (NIR) range between 680 and 950 nm. We herein report the photoacoustic properties of quinone-fused porphyrins inserted with different transition metals as new highly promising candidates. These dyes exhibit intense NIR absorption, a lack of fluorescence emission, and PA sensitivity in concentrations below 3 nmol mL−1. In this context, the highest PA signal was obtained with a Zn(II) inserted dye. Furthermore, this dye was stable in blood serum and free thiol solution and exhibited negligible cell toxicity. Additionally, the Zn(II) probe could be detected with an up to 3.2 fold higher PA intensity compared to the clinically most commonly used PA agent, ICG. Thus, further exploration of the ‘quinone-fusing’ approach to other chromophores may be an efficient way to generate highly potent PA agents that do not fluoresce and shift their absorption into the NIR range.