Although various clinical imaging modalities have been developed to visualize internal body structures and detect abnormal tissues prior to surgical procedures, most medical imaging modalities do not provide disease-specific images in real-time. Optical imaging can provide the surgeon with real-time visualization of the surgical field for intraoperative image-guided surgery. Imaging in the near-infrared (NIR) window (650-900 nm), also known as the “therapeutic window” has high potential by offering low absorbance and scattering in tissues resulting in minimized background autofluorescence. Clinically, optical fluorescence imaging with the targeted contrast agents provides opportunities for significant advances in intraoperative image-guided surgery. There are only two clinically available NIR fluorophores, indocyanine green (ICG) and methylene blue (MB), that support the image-guided surgery. However, neither of them perform in vivo by providing optimum specificity and stability for targeted image guidance. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to develop targeted NIR fluorophores for unmet clinical needs. Using the right combination of an NIR fluorescence imaging system and a targeted fluorophore, the desired target tissues can be imaged to provide real-time fluorescence guidance without changing the field-of-view during surgery. Thus, in a clinical discipline, the development of NIR fluorophores for ‘structure-inherent targeting’ is an unmet need for early phase diagnostics with accurate targeting.