Atherosclerosis is a major cause of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases that have high mortality and disability rates. Because of its unclear pathogenic mechanism and heterogeneous distribution feature, it is still a big challenge to achieve precise diagnosis and therapy of atherosclerosis at its early stage in vivo. Herein, we fabricated a new ICG@PEG-Ag2S nanoprobe by a simple self-assembly of DT-Ag2S QDs, amphipathic C18/PEG polymer molecules and ICG. The ICG@PEG-Ag2S nanoprobe showed relatively long blood retention and was selectively accumulated in the region of atherosclerotic plaque due to the lipophilicity of the C18 chain to the atherosclerosis microenvironment, and thus the atherosclerosis was real-time monitored by high contrast-enhanced photoacoustic (PA) imaging of ICG. Combining the high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and high spatial resolution fluorescence imaging of Ag2S QDs in the second near-infrared window (NIR-II) and related histological assessment in vitro, the feasibility of this new nanoprobe for atherosclerosis targeting in an Apoe(-/-) mouse model was verified. Additionally, hemolysis and coagulation assays of the ICG@PEG-Ag2S revealed its decent hemocompatibility and no histological changes were observed in the main organs of the mouse. Such a simple, multifunctional nanoprobe for targeting and PA imaging of atherosclerosis will have a great potential for future clinical applications.

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