Optimising gold nanorods for photoacoustic imaging in vitro
Gold nanorods (AuNRs) can be synthesised with different sizes but similar aspect ratios and therefore similar surface plasmon resonances (SPRs). Their strong optical absorbance governed by their SPRs facilitates their ability to be used as molecular-targeted contrast agents for photoacoustic (PA) imaging. The size of AuNRs has an effect on the PA conversion efficiency, melting threshold, and cytotoxicity, indicating that size can have a significant impact on overall biomedical efficacy. We investigated these factors for four different AuNRs (widths of 10, 25, 40 and 50 nm) all with SPRs of 815 ± 26 nm. A size-dependent linear relationship between fluence and PA amplitude was observed, along with particle melting. Reshaping was confirmed via transmission electron microscopy and spectrophotometry at a laser fluence of 11 ± 1.7 mJ cm−2, 20 ± 2.2 mJ cm−2, and 40 ± 2.6 mJ cm−2. Cytotoxicity was tested on lung cancer cells (A549) via a colourimetric assay at a maximum concentration of 3 × 1010 NP ml−1. Results demonstrate the 40 nm and 50 nm AuNRs produced the highest signal for equivalent particle numbers, but displayed the highest toxicity. Conversely, the 10 nm AuNRs were the most efficient photoacoustic converters, at equivalent total mass. This study demonstrates the importance of AuNR size and concentration on selection of AuNRs for their eventual clinical use.