Laser-synthesized ligand-free Au nanoparticles for contrast agent applications in computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging†
In recent years, pulsed laser ablation in liquids (PLAL) has emerged as a new green chemistry method to produce different types of nanoparticles (NPs). It does not require the use of reducing or stabilizing agents, therefore enabling the synthesis of NPs with highly-pure surfaces. In this study, pure Au NPs were produced by PLAL in aqueous solutions, sterically stabilized using minimal PEG excess, and functionalized with manganese chelates to produce a dual CT/MRI contrast agent. The small hydrodynamic size (36.5 nm), low polydispersity (0.2) and colloidal stability of Au NPs@PEG-Mn2+ were demonstrated by DLS. The particles were further characterized by TEM, XPS, FTIR and 1H NMR to confirm the purity of the Au surfaces (i.e. free from the common residual chemicals found after NP synthesis) and the presence of the different surface molecules. The potential of these particles as contrast agents for CT/MRI was assessed in vivo (e.g. chicken embryo). Au NPs@PEG-Mn2+ also demonstrated strong blood retention for at least 90 minutes following intravenous injection in mouse models. The promising performance of PEGylated PLAL-synthesized Au NPs containing manganese chelates could open new possibilities for the production of purer dual imaging contrast agents based on Au colloids.