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Near-Infrared-Fluorescent Erythrocyte-Mimicking Particles: Physical and Optical Characteristics.


Exogenous fluorescent materials activated by near-infrared (NIR) light can offer deep optical imaging with subcellular resolution, and enhanced image contrast. We have engineered NIR particles by doping hemoglobin-depleted erythrocyte ghosts (EGs) with indocyanine green (ICG). We refer to these optical particles as NIR erythrocyte-mimicking transducers (NETs). A particular feature of NETs is that their diameters can be tuned from micrometer to nanometer scale, thereby, providing a capability for broad NIR biomedical imaging applications. Herein, we investigate the effects of ICG concentration on key material properties of micrometer-sized NETs, and nanometer-sized NETs fabricated by either sonication or mechanical extrusion of EGs. The zeta potentials of NETs do not vary significantly with ICG concentration, suggesting that ICG is encapsulated within NETs regardless of particle size or ICG concentration. Loading efficiency of ICG into the NETs monotonically decreases with increasing values of ICG concentration. Based on quantitative analyses of the fluorescence emission spectra of the NETs, we determine that 20 μM ICG utilized during fabrication of NETs presents an optimal concentration that maximizes the integrated fluorescence emission for micrometer- and nanometer-sized NETs. Encapsulation of the ICG in these constructs also enhances the fluorescence stability and quantum yield of ICG. These results guide the engineering of NETs with maximal NIR emission for imaging applications such as fluorescence-guided tumor resection and real-time angiography.

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