Nanogels as imaging agents for modalities spanning the electromagnetic spectrum
In the past few decades, advances in imaging equipment and protocols have expanded the role of imaging in in vivo diagnosis and disease management, especially in cancer. Traditional imaging agents have rapid clearance and low specificity for disease detection. To improve accuracy in disease identification, localization and assessment, novel nanomaterials are frequently explored as imaging agents to achieve high detection specificity and sensitivity. A promising material for this purpose are hydrogel nanoparticles, whose high hydrophilicity, biocompatibility, and tunable size in the nanometer range make them ideal for imaging. These nanogels (10 to 200 nm) can circumvent uptake by the reticuloendothelial system, allowing longer circulation times than small molecules. In addition, their size/surface properties can be further tailored to optimize their pharmacokinetics for imaging of a particular disease. Herein, we provide a comprehensive review of nanogels as imaging agents in various modalities with sources of signal spanning the electromagnetic spectrum, including MRI, NIR, UV-vis, and PET. Many materials and formulation methods will be reviewed to highlight the versatility of nanogels as imaging agents.