Novel Therapeutic & Diagnostic Applications of Ultrasound
Having been traditionally perceived as a diagnostic modality, ultrasound is rapidly emerging as a most promising tool for non-invasive therapy and drug delivery. Low- and high-amplitude, focussed and unfocussed ultrasound fields in the frequency range 20kHz-9MHz propagating through tissue have been recently reported to produce a wide array of potentially beneficial bioeffects. Such phenomena include rapid and localized tissue heating, the dissolution of blood clots (thrombolysis), vascular occlusion (acoustic haemostasis), the locally enhanced and time-released activity of drugs (sonodynamic therapy), increased and reversible permeability of cell membrane and skin to large molecules (sonoporation and sonophoresis) and the reversible opening of the blood-brain barrier. In many of these therapeutic scenarios, diagnostic ultrasound provides unique opportunities for quantitative, real-time treatment monitoring, giving rise to challenges never encountered by traditional ultrasonography.
BUBL researchers strive to understand, optimize and harness the mechanisms by which acoustic waves interact with tissue and other biological materials to achieve particular therapeutic effects. The Laboratory is home to state-of-the-art calibration and characterization facilities for both diagnostic and therapeutic ultrasound. Currently available expertise ranges from techniques for active and passive cavitation monitoring and control for a variety of applications, including High-Intensity Focussed Ultrasound (HIFU), to the development of cavitation-based techniques for targeted drug delivery. Novel high-frequency acoustic microscopy techniques are also being developed for cell and drug particle characterization, whilst ultrasound standing waves and acoustic resonators are being utilized for particle separation and acoustic filtration. Finally, a novel, patented device for keeping an organ alive outside the body in a viable and active metabolic, synthetic and haemodynamic state has been developed in collaboration with the research group of Prof PJ Friend in the Oxford Nuffield Department of Surgery. This liver perfusion device is being used extensively for the testing and optimization of novel therapeutic ultrasound therapies.