Recently, Associate Professor Shuqing He reported a synergistic strategy of rare-earth doped nanoparticles for multicolor imaging in the NIR-II window. This work was published in Journal of Materials Chemistry and selected as the cover paper (DOI: 10.1039/d1tb01640g).
Featuring simultaneous multicolor imaging for multiple targets, a synergistic strategy has become promising for fluorescence imaging applications. Visible and first near infrared (NIR-I, 700–900 nm) fluorophores have been explored for multicolor imaging to achieve good multi-target capacity, but they are largely hampered by the narrow imaging bands available (400–900 nm, bandwidth 500 nm), the broad emission spectra of many fluorophores, shallow tissue penetration and scattering loss. With attractive characteristic emission peaks in the second NIR window (NIR-II, 1000–1700 nm), a narrow emission spectrum, and deeper tissue penetration capability, rare-earth doped nanoparticles (RENPs) have been considered by us to be outstanding candidates for multicolor bioimaging. Herein, two RENPs, NaYF4:Yb20Er2@NaYF4 and NaYF4:Nd5@NaYF4, were prepared and modified with polyethylene glycol (PEG) to explore simultaneous imaging in the NIR-IIb (1530 nm, under 980 nm laser excitation) and the NIR-II (1060 nm, under 808 nm laser excitation) windows. The PEGylated-RENPs (RENPs@PEG) were able to simultaneously visualize the circulatory system, trace the lymphatic system, and evaluate the skeletal system. Our study demonstrates that RENPs have high synergistic imaging capability in multifunctional biomedical applications using their NIR-II fluorescence. Importantly, the two RENPs@PEG are complementary to each other for higher temporal resolution in NaYF4:Nd5@NaYF4@PEG and higher spatial resolution in NaYF4:Yb20Er2@NaYF4@PEG, which may provide more comprehensive and accurate imaging diagnosis. In conclusion, RENPs are highly promising nanomaterials for multicolor imaging in the NIR-II window.