One of the advantages of photoacoustic imaging (PAI) is that its image contrast may come from exogenous agents. Such advantage leads to the development of a great number of exogenous probes. However, the biosafety of most of these contrast agents has not yet been confirmed, thus hindering their clinical translation. In this work, we report on the utilization of a clinically commonly used nutritional medicine, the Intralipid, as a new contrast agent for photoacoustic imaging. Intralipid consists of soybean oil, lecithin and glycerin and has long been adapted in clinical practices, mainly as a parenteral nutrition. In our study, we found that with Intralipid, the imaging sensitivity of PAI can be effectively enhanced, as demonstrated in in vivo imaging of different organs of nude mice. Further imaging studies on cancerous mice showed not only a twofold PA signal enhancement, but also a strong and long-lasting signal aggregation in the tumor region. Our result revealed the potential of Intralipid to be used in clinical PAI applications, since it is clinically safe, and can be easily prepared at very low cost.

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