A self-illuminating nanoparticle for inflammation imaging and cancer therapy

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Science Advances  09 Jan 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 1, eaat2953
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat2953


Nanoparticles have been extensively used for inflammation imaging and photodynamic therapy of cancer. However, the major translational barriers to most nanoparticle-based imaging and therapy applications are the limited depth of tissue penetration, inevitable requirement of external irradiation, and poor biocompatibility of the nanoparticles. To overcome these critical limitations, we synthesized a sensitive, specific, biodegradable luminescent nanoparticle that is self-assembled from an amphiphilic polymeric conjugate with a luminescent donor (luminol) and a fluorescent acceptor [chlorin e6 (Ce6)] for in vivo luminescence imaging and photodynamic therapy in deep tissues. Mechanistically, reactive oxygen species (ROS) and myeloperoxidase generated in inflammatory sites or the tumor microenvironment trigger bioluminescence resonance energy transfer and the production of singlet oxygen (1O2) from the nanoparticle, enabling in vivo imaging and cancer therapy, respectively. This self-illuminating nanoparticle shows an excellent in vivo imaging capability with suitable tissue penetration and resolution in diverse animal models of inflammation. It is also proven to be a selective, potent, and safe antitumor nanomedicine that specifically kills cancer cells via in situ 1O2 produced in the tumor microenvironment, which contains a high level of ROS.

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