Theranostics 2017; 7(7):1863-1874. doi:10.7150/thno.18962

Research Paper

Rapid fluorescence imaging of spinal cord following epidural administration of a nerve-highlighting fluorophore

Wanguo Liu1, Rui Gu1, Qingsan Zhu1✉, Chunsheng Xiao2✉, Lanfeng Huang3, Xinming Zhuang4, Jingzhe Zhang1, Lidi Liu4, Ben Ma5, Huailin Yang2, Jianchao Ma1, Zhipeng Hu2, Chenglin Tang1✉, Shuhua Zhao6✉, Xuesi Chen2

1. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, China-Japan Union Hospital, Jilin University, Changchun, China;
2. Key Laboratory of Polymer Ecomaterials, Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun, China;
3. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, The Second Hospital, JilinUniversity, Changchun, China;
4. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, The First Hospital, JilinUniversity, Changchun, China;
5. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Jinhua Central Hospital, Zhejiang University, Jinhua, China;
6. Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, Public Health School, Jilin University, Changchun, China.


Iatrogenic spinal cord injury (SCI) is the most devastating complication of spine surgery, which usually results in permanent and serious disabilities of patients. Improvement of the visualization and discrimination of the spinal cord is critical for accuracy and safety during surgery; however, to date, there is no suitable technology to fulfill this clinical need. Here, we first show an efficient and rapid fluorescence imaging of the spinal cord in rabbit by epidural administration of a nerve-highlighting fluorophore, i.e. (E, E)-1,4-bis(p-aminostryl)-2-methoxy benzene (BMB). The BMB is firstly encapsulated into polymeric micelles to form a BMB-micelle (BMB-m) formulation with well-dispersion in normal saline solution. After epidural administration of BMB-m, BMB is transported by the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and binds to the peripheral region of the white matter thus facilitating rapid staining of the spinal cord. Furthermore, this BMB imaging technology also holds great potential for visually monitoring the integrity of the spinal cord in real time and promptly identifying acute SCI during spine surgery.

Keywords: fluorescence, image-guided surgery, spinal cord, epidural administration, cerebrospinal fluid, spinal cord injury.

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How to cite this article:
Liu W, Gu R, Zhu Q, Xiao C, Huang L, Zhuang X, Zhang J, Liu L, Ma B, Yang H, Ma J, Hu Z, Tang C, Zhao S, Chen X. Rapid fluorescence imaging of spinal cord following epidural administration of a nerve-highlighting fluorophore. Theranostics 2017; 7(7):1863-1874. doi:10.7150/thno.18962. Available from