Elaborately designed biocompatible nanoplatforms simultaneously having diverse therapeutic and imaging functions are highly desired for biomedical applications. Herein, a Bi2Se3 nanoagent with a special morphology as a nanoscale spherical sponge (NSS) has been fabricated and investigated in vitro and in vivo. The highly porous NSS exhibits strong, steady, and broad-band absorbance in the near-infrared range as well as high efficiency and stability of photothermal conversion, resulting in high antitumor efficacy for photothermal therapy (PTT). Together with a high X-ray attenuation coefficient (218% that of the clinically used iopromide), the NSS shows excellent performance on triple-modal high-contrast imaging, including X-ray-computed tomography, multispectral optoacoustic tomography, and infrared thermal imaging. Furthermore, the high surface area and porous structure impart the NSS a competent drug loading capability as high as 600% of that on Bi2Se3 nanoplates, showing a bimodal pH/photothermal sensitive drug release and pronounced synergetic effects of thermo-chemotherapy with a tumor inhibition ratio even higher than that of PTT alone (∼94.4% vs ∼66.0%). Meanwhile, the NSS is highly biocompatible with rather low in vitro/in vivo toxicity and high stability, at variance with easily oxidized Bi2Se3 nanoagents reported previously. Such biocompatible single-component theranostic nanoagents produced by a facile synthesis and highly integrated multimodal imaging and multiple therapeutic functions may have substantial potentials for clinical antitumor applications. This highly porous nanostructure with a large fraction of void space may allow versatile use of the NSS, for example, in catalysis, gas sensing, and energy storage, in addition to accommodating drugs and other biomolecules.

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