Tumor blood vessels are chaotic and abundantly distributed, owing to their heterogeneity. Therefore, imaging techniques which reveal abnormalities of tumor vasculature play significant roles in both mechanistic and clinical diagnostic tumor studies. Photoacoustic (PA) imaging uses the intrinsic characteristics of hemoglobin, to acquire tumor hemodynamic information, while ultrasound (US) imaging provides information about tumoral vessel structures and blood flow. To improve the imaging contrast performance, hydrogel-based microdroplets were designed for both US blood flow and PA imaging in this study. The microdroplets served as carriers for PA contrast agent solution in the innermost part while oil and hydrogel formed the inner and outer layers of the droplets. In vitro experiments firstly demonstrated the dual modality contrast effects of the microdroplets on US flow determination and PA imaging. In vivo experiments were then carried out in both healthy nude mice and nude mice with subcutaneous tumor to validate the contrast effects and to monitor the duration of contrast effects in animals. Using the dual-modality microdroplets, we were able to obtain distinct edges of tumor and blood flow mapping of the tumor microvascular with improved sensitivity up to 11.09 dB for PA and 6.69 dB for US flow. Besides, the in vivo evaluation with microdroplets showed US flow enhancement for more than 60 min. Therefore, the microdroplets are able to provide the contrast effects for both US flow and PA in a relative long duration and have potential to be applied in the tumor related diagnoses and studies.
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