Plasmonic-doped melanin-mimic for CXCR4-targeted NIR-II photoacoustic computed tomography-guided photothermal ablation of orthotopic hepatocellular carcinoma

Shuo Qi, Yachao Zhang, Gongyuan Liu, Jiangbo Chen, Xiaozhen Li, Qi Zhu, Yuqi Yang, Feng Wang, Jiahai Shi, Chun Sing Lee, Guangyu Zhu (Corresponding Author), Puxiang Lai (Corresponding Author), Lidai Wang (Corresponding Author), Chihua Fang (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Effective and noninvasive diagnosis and prompt treatment of early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are urgently needed to reduce its mortality rate. Herein, the integration of high-resolution diagnostic second near-infrared (NIR-II) photoacoustic computed tomography (PACT) and imaging-guided targeted photothermal ablation of orthotopic small HCC (SHCC) is presented for the first time, which was enabled by a plasmonic platinum (Pt)-doped polydopamine melanin-mimic nanoagent. As designed, an antibody-modified nanoagent (designated Pt@PDA-c) with a plasmonic blackbody-like NIR absorption and superior photothermal conversion efficiency (71.3%) selectively targeted and killed CXCR4-overexpressing HCC (HepG2) cells, which was validated in in vitro experiments. The targeted accumulation properties of Pt@PDA-c in vivo were previously recognized by demonstrating effective NIR-II PA imaging and photothermal ablation in a subcutaneous HCC mouse model. Subsequently, with real-time quantitative guidance by PACT for the accurate diagnosis of intraabdominal SHCC (approximately 4 mm depth), the effective and noninvasive photothermal ablation of SHCCs was successfully demonstrated in an orthotopic tumor-bearing mouse model without damaging adjacent liver tissues. These results show a great potential of NIR-II PACT-guided noninvasive photothermal therapy as an innovative phototheranostic approach and expand the biomedical applications of melanin-mimic materials. Statement of significance: In this paper, we report the first diagnostic NIR-II photoacoustic computed tomography (PACT)-guided noninvasive photothermal ablation of small hepatocellular carcinoma (SHCC) located in deep tissues in orthotopic tumor-bearing mice; this process is empowered by a polydopamine-based melanin-mimic tumor-targeting nanoagent doped with plasmonic platinum that provides superior NIR-II (1064 nm) absorption and photothermal conversion efficiency of 71.3%. Following surface modification with anti-CXCR4 antibodies, the nanoagent (namely Pt@PDA-c) can selectively target CXCR4-overexpressed HepG2 carcinoma cells and tumor lesions, and serve as the theranostic agent for both NIR-II PACT-based diagnosis of orthotopic SHCC (diameter less than 5 mm) and efficient NIR-II PTT in vivo. This study may also extend the potential of melanin-derived blackbody materials for optical-biomedical and water distillation applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-257
Number of pages13
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2021


  • Melanin-mimic
  • Photoacoustic imaging
  • Photothermal therapy
  • Second near-infrared (NIR-II)
  • Small hepatocellular carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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