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Microbubbles as a Vehicle for Gene and Drug Delivery: Current Clinical Implications and Future Perspectives

[ Vol. 18 , Issue. 15 ]


Nicolas A Geis, Hugo A Katus and Raffi Bekeredjian   Pages 2166 - 2183 ( 18 )


Ultrasound targeted microbubble destruction (UTMD) has evolved as a novel system for non-invasive, organ- and tissuespecific drug and gene delivery. Initially developed as ultrasound contrast agents, microbubbles (MBs) have increasingly gained attention for their ability to directly deliver different classes of bioactive substances (e.g. genes, drugs, proteins, gene silencing constructs) to various organ systems and tumors. Bioactive substances can be attached to or incorporated in the microbubble shells. Applying ultrasound at their resonance frequency, microbubbles oscillate. When using higher ultrasound energies, oscillation amplitudes increase, finally resulting in microbubble destruction. This leads to increased capillary and cell membrane permeability in the immediate vicinity of the ruptured MBs, thus facilitating tissue and cell penetration of co-administered or loaded bioactive substances. Numerous proof of principle studies have been performed, demonstrating the broad potential of UTMD as a site-specific, non-invasive therapeutic tool, delivering microbubble payload to various target tissues and organ systems or facilitating uptake of bioactive substances into tissues or cells. This review focuses on current in vivo studies and therapeutic approaches of UTMD. Promising results give hope for future clinical applications of this novel non-viral vector system. Nevertheless, several limitations remain, which will also be discussed in this review article.


Microbubble, UTMD, ultrasound, drug delivery, gene therapy, sonoporation, ultrasound contrast agent, triggered release


Department of Internal Medicine III, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 410, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.

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