Pushing Molecular Optical Imaging Probes Towards Clinical Translation
Molecular optical imaging plays a crucial role in biology and medicine. However, the strong tissue autofluorescence and shallow tissue penetration of optical imaging not only compromise its sensitivity and specificity but also limit its clinical translation. In this talk, I will introduce our approaches (afterglow imaging and artificial urinary biomarkers) to tackle the challenges to advance the clinical translation of molecular optical probes. First, I will introduce molecular afterglow probes with long-lasting luminescence after removal of light excitation for ultrasensitive in vivo imaging. Molecular afterglow probes have the signal to background ratio more than two orders of magnitude higher than NIR fluorescence, allowing for sensitive detection of tiny peritoneal metastatic tumors and monitoring therapeutic outcome. Second, I will discuss how to design renal-clearable optical probes as artificial urinary biomarkers for early diagnosis of acute kidney injury (AKI) and prognosis of cancer immunotherapy. Molecular renal probes (MRPs) are developed to specifically activate their NIR/chemiluminescence signals towards the biomarkers of AKI or immune cells, followed by rapid renal clearance for urine tests. MRPs thus can act as artificial urinary biomarkers to bypass the in vivo imaging challenges, permitting optical urinalysis that outperforms typical clinical/preclinical assays. These studies provide the basis for an entirely new class of molecular optical probes with ultrahigh sensitivity and high translational potential for disease diagnosis and prognosis.