Microbubble Contrast Agents: Targeted Ultrasound Imaging and Ultrasound-Assisted Drug-Delivery Applications

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The use of microbubble contrast agents for general tissue delineation and perfusion enjoys steady interest in ultrasound imaging. Microbubbles as contrast materials require a small dosage and show excellent detection sensitivity. Targeting ligands on the surface of microbubbles permit the selective accumulation of these particles in the areas of interest, which show an up-regulated level of receptor molecules on vascular endothelium. Selective contrast imaging of inflammation, ischemia–reperfusion injury, angiogenesis, and thrombosis has been achieved in animal models. Ultrasound-assisted drug delivery and activation, performed by combining microbubble agent containing drug substances or coadministered with pharmaceutical agents (including plasmid DNA for transfection), has been achieved in multiple model systems in vitro and in vivo. Ultrasound and microbubbles-based targeted acceleration of the thrombolytic enzyme action already have reached clinical trials. Overall, microbubble targeting and ultrasound-assisted microbubble-based drug-delivery systems will offer a step toward the application of targeted personalized diagnostics and therapy.

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