Continuously updated diagnostic methods and advanced imaging methods have led to an increase in the early detection rate of small liver cancer; however, even with current diagnosis methods, it is still challenging to accurately judge a nodule with a diameter less than 2 cm whether it is hepatocellular carcinoma or liver cirrhosis. To solve this issue, a new technology is needed to distinguish above two kinds of liver nodules. There is an emerging imaging method that improves tissue resolution and sensitivity to detect micronodules with diameters less than 2 cm. To detect micronodules, photoacoustic imaging was used to provide noninvasive images at depths of several centimeters with a resolution of approximately 100 μm. To improve specificity, we developed a probe that specifically targets hepatocellular carcinoma by recognizing the biomarker GPC3 on the hepatocellular carcinoma cell membrane. The probe not only has a strong photoacoustic signal but also has a magnetic resonance signal. Furthermore, the material owns photothermal effect that absorbs longer wavelength light and releases heat that effectively and accurately kills tumor cells, thus improving patient’s survival and postoperative quality of life. Herein, we present a new technology that uses photoacoustic imaging to image and target microhepatocellular carcinoma biological processes derived from liver cirrhosis with high spatial resolution.

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