Detection of Inflammation in Vivo by Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering Provides Higher Sensitivity Than Conventional Fluorescence Imaging

The detection of inflammatory changes is a key aim for the early diagnosis and treatment of several autoimmune, infectious, and metastatic diseases. While surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) has the capability to provide noninvasive, in vivo imaging at sufficient depth to achieve this goal, this approach has not been exploited in the study of inflammation. SERS-active nanoparticles were coded with a unique Raman signal that was protected under a wide range of conditions and stimuli. To detect early-stage inflammation, gold nanoparticle clusters containing Raman-active molecules were conjugated to intercellular adhesion molecule 1- (ICAM-1-) specific monoclonal antibodies. SERS allowed noninvasive measurement of ICAM-1 expression in vivo with twice the sensitivity of two-photon fluorescence. This is the first time SERS has been used for in vivo detection of inflammation and is a major advance in the ever-growing toolkit of approaches for use in noninvasive, next-generation in vivo imaging.