With the development of nonlinear optics and new imaging methods, near-infrared (NIR) light can excite contrast agents to probe biological specimens both functionally and structurally with a deeper imaging depth and a higher spatial resolution than linear optical approaches. There is considerable and growing interest in how biological specimens respond to NIR light. Moreover, the visible absorption band of most functional nanomaterials becomes NIR-excitable through multiphoton processes, thus allowing multifunctional imaging and combined therapy with noble metal and magnetic nanoparticles both in vitro and in vivo. A groundbreaking example is the use of different laser techniques to excite single-type NIR-absorbing/emitting nanomaterials to produce multiphoton emission by femtosecond lasers using either a remote control system for photodynamic therapy or photo-induced chemical bond dissociation. These techniques provided superior anatomical resolution and detection sensitivity for in vivo tumor-targeted imaging than those offered by conventional methods. Here we summarize the most recent progress in the development of smart NIR-absorbing/emitting nanomaterials for in vivo bioapplications.
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