Biomimetic Approach to Promote Cellular Uptake and Enhance Photoacoustic Properties of Tumor-Seeking Dyes

Amanda K. East, Michael C. Lee, Chang Jiang, Qasim Sikander, Jefferson Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The attachment of glucose to drugs and imaging agents enables cancer cell targeting via interactions with GLUT1 overexpressed on the cell surface. While an added benefit of this modification is the solubilizing effect of carbohydrates, in the context of imaging agents, aqueous solubility does not guarantee decreased π-stacking or aggregation. The resulting broadening of the absorbance spectrum is a detriment to photoacoustic (PA) imaging since the signal intensity, accuracy, and image quality all rely on reliable spectral unmixing. To address this major limitation and further enhance the tumor-targeting ability of imaging agents, we have taken a biomimetic approach to design a multivalent glucose moiety (mvGlu). We showcase the utility of this new group by developing aza-BODIPY-based contrast agents boasting a significant PA signal enhancement greater than 11-fold after spectral unmixing. Moreover, when applied to targeting cancer cells, effective staining could be achieved with ultra-low dye concentrations (50 nM) and compared to a non-targeted analogue, the signal intensity was >1000-fold higher. Lastly, we employed the mvGlu technology to develop a logic-gated acoustogenic probe to detect intratumoral copper (i.e., Cu(I)), which is an emerging cancer biomarker, in a murine model of breast cancer. This exciting application was not possible using other acoustogenic probes previously developed for copper sensing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7313-7322
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number13
StatePublished - Apr 5 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Catalysis
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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