Over the last decade, there has been significant developments in nanotechnology, in particular for combined imaging and therapeutic applications (theranostics). The core or shell of nanoemulsions (NEs) can be loaded with various therapeutic agents, including drugs with low solubility for effective treatment, or various imaging agents for specific imaging modalities (e.g., MRI, fluorescence). In this work, perfluorohexane (PFH) NEs were synthesized for theranostic applications and were coupled to silica coated gold nanoparticles (scAuNPs) to increase the generation of PFH bubbles upon laser induced vaporization (i.e., optical droplet vaporization). The localized heat generated from the absorption properties of these nanoparticles (used to provide photoacoustic signals) can also be used to treat cancer without significantly damaging nearby healthy tissues. The theranostic potential of these PFH-NEs for contrast imaging of tumors and as a drug-delivery vehicle for therapeutic purposes were demonstrated for both in vitro and in vivo systems using a combination of photoacoustic, ultrasound and fluorescence imaging modalities. The ability of PFH-NEs to couple with scAuNPs, attach to the membranes of cancer cells and internalize within cancer cells, are encouraging for targeted chemotherapeutic applications for directly inducing cancer cell death via vaporization in clinical settings.
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