Optoacoustic (photoacoustic) imaging has demonstrated versatile applications in biomedical research, visualizing the disease pathophysiology and monitoring the treatment effect in an animal model, as well as toward applications in the clinical setting. Given the complex disease mechanism, multimodal imaging provides important etiological insights with different molecular, structural, and functional readouts in vivo. Various multimodal optoacoustic molecular imaging approaches have been applied in preclinical brain imaging studies, including optoacoustic/fluorescence imaging, optoacoustic imaging/magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), optoacoustic imaging/MRI/Raman, optoacoustic imaging/positron emission tomography, and optoacoustic/computed tomography. There is a rapid development in molecular imaging contrast agents employing a multimodal imaging strategy for pathological targets involved in brain diseases. Many chemical dyes for optoacoustic imaging have fluorescence properties and have been applied in hybrid optoacoustic/fluorescence imaging. Nanoparticles are widely used as hybrid contrast agents for their capability to incorporate different imaging components, tunable spectrum, and photostability. In this review, we summarize contrast agents including chemical dyes and nanoparticles applied in multimodal optoacoustic brain imaging integrated with other modalities in small animals, and provide outlook for further research.

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