Multi-modal imaging-guided photothermal therapy (PTT) has aroused extensive attention in biomedical research recently because it can provide more comprehensive information for accurate diagnosis and treatment. In this research, the manganese ion chelated endogenous biopolymer melanin nanoparticles were successfully prepared for magnetic resonance (MR)/photoacoustic (PA) dual-modal imaging-guided PTT. The obtained nanoparticles with an ultrasmall size of about 3.2 nm exhibited negligible cytotoxicity, high relaxivity for MRI, an excellent photothermal effect and PA activity. Moreover, in vivo MRI and PAI results all demonstrated that the nanoparticles began to diffuse in the blood after intratumoral injection into tumor-bearing mice and could spread throughout the whole tumor region at 3 h, indicating the optimal treatment time. The subsequent photothermal therapy of cancer cells in vivo was carried out and the result showed that tumor growth could be effectively inhibited without inducing any observed side effects. Besides, melanin as an endogenous biopolymer has native biocompatibility and biodegradability, and it can be excreted through both renal and hepatobiliary pathways after treatment. Therefore, the melanin-Mn nanoparticles may assist in better indicating the optimal treatment time, monitoring the therapeutic process and enhancing the therapeutic effect and showed great clinical translation potential for cancer diagnosis and therapy.

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