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New classes of biologically active materials, such as viruses, siRNA, antibodies and a wide range of engineered nanoparticles have emerged as potent agents for diagnosing and treating diseases, yet many of these agents fail because there is no effective route of delivery to their intended targets. Focused ultrasound and its ability to drive microbubble-seeded cavitation have been shown to facilitate drug delivery. However, cavitation is difficult to control temporally and spatially, making prediction of therapeutic outcomes deep in the body difficult. Here, we utilized passive acoustic mapping in vivo to understand how ultrasound parameters influence cavitation dynamics and to correlate spatial maps of cavitation to drug delivery. Focused ultrasound (center frequency: 0.5 MHz, peak-rarefactional pressure: 1.2 MPa, pulse length: 25 cycles or 50,000 cycles, pulse repetition interval: 0.02, 0.2, 1 or 3 s, number of pulses: 80 pulses) was applied to murine xenograft-model tumors in vivo during systemic injection of microbubbles with and without cavitation-sensitive liposomes or type 5 adenoviruses. Analysis of in vivo cavitation dynamics through several pulses revealed that cavitation was more efficiently produced at a lower pulse repetition frequency of 1 Hz than at 50 Hz. Within a pulse, inertial cavitation activity was shown to persist but reduced to 50% and 25% of its initial magnitude in 4.3 and 29.3 ms, respectively. Both through several pulses and within a pulse, the spatial distribution of cavitation was shown to change in time due to variations in microbubble distribution present in tumors. Finally, we demonstrated that the centroid of the mapped cavitation activity was within 1.33  ±  0.6 mm and 0.36 mm from the centroid location of drug release from liposomes and expression of the reporter gene encoded by the adenovirus, respectively. Thus passive acoustic mapping not only unraveled key mechanisms whereby a successful outcome is achieved, but also a predicted drug delivery outcome.

Original publication




Journal article


Phys Med Biol

Publication Date





4861 - 4877


Algorithms, Animals, Hep G2 Cells, Humans, Liposomes, Mice, Ultrasonic Waves, Ultrasonography