Novel small-molecule fluorophores for in vivo NIR-IIa and NIR-IIb imaging†
Near-infrared fluorescence imaging in the 1000–1700 nm-wavelength window (NIR-II) has exhibited great potential for deep-tissue bioimaging due to its diminished auto-fluorescence, suppressed photo-scattering, deep penetration, and high spatial and temporal resolutions. Various kinds of inorganic nanomaterials have been extensively developed for NIR-IIa (1300–1400 nm) and NIR-IIb (1500–1700 nm) bioimaging. However, the development of small-molecule NIR-IIa and NIR-IIb fluorophores is still in its infancy. Herein, we designed and synthesized a novel NIR-II organic aggregation-induced emission (AIE) fluorophore (HQL2) with a fluorescence tail extending into the NIR-IIa and NIR-IIb region based on our previous reported skeleton Q4. The encapsulated NIR-II AIE nanoparticles (HQL2 dots) exhibited water solubility and biocompatibility, and high brightness for NIR-IIa and NIR-IIb vascular imaging in vivo, a first for NIR-II AIE dots.