Deep-Brain Three-Photon Imaging Enabled by Aggregation-Induced Emission Luminogens with Near-Infrared-III Excitation

Zhourui Xu, Zhijun Zhang, Xiangquan Deng, Jiangao Li, Yihang Jiang, Wing Cheung Law, Chengbin Yang, Wanjian Zhang, Xiaolin Chen, Ke Wang (Corresponding Author), Dong Wang (Corresponding Author), Gaixia Xu (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the morphology and hemodynamics of cerebral vasculature at large penetration depths and microscale resolution is fundamentally important to decipher brain diseases. Among the various imaging technologies, three-photon (3P) microscopy is of significance by virtue of its deep-penetrating capability and submicron resolution, which especially benefits in vivo vascular imaging. Aggregation-induced emission luminogens (AIEgens) have been recognized to be extraordinarily powerful as 3P probes. However, systematic studies on the structure-performance relationship of 3P AIEgens have been seldom reported. Herein, a series of AIEgens has been designed and synthesized. By intentionally introducing benzene rings onto electron donors (D) and acceptors (A), the molecular distortion, conjugation strength, and the D-A relationship can be facilely manipulated. Upon encapsulation with DSPE-PEG2000, the optimized AIEgens are successfully applied for 3P microscopy with emission in the far-red/near-infrared-I (NIR-I, 700-950 nm) region under the near-infrared-III (NIR-III, 1600-1870 nm) excitation. Impressively, using mice with an opened skull, vasculature within 1700 μm and a microvessel with a diameter of 2.2 μm in deep mouse brain were clearly visualized. In addition, the hemodynamics of blood vessels were well-characterized. Thus, this work not only proposes a molecular design strategy of 3P AIEgens but also promotes the performance of 3P imaging in cerebral vasculature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6712-6724
Number of pages13
JournalACS Nano
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2022


  • aggregation-induced emission
  • brain vasculature imaging
  • hemodynamic imaging
  • NIR-III excitation
  • three-photon imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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