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Lipid-shelled Vehicles: Engineering For Ultrasound Molecular Imaging And Drug Delivery.

K. Ferrara, M. Borden, H. Zhang
Published 2009 · Materials Science, Medicine

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Ultrasound pressure waves can map the location of lipid-stabilized gas micro-bubbles after their intravenous administration in the body, facilitating an estimate of vascular density and microvascular flow rate. Microbubbles are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration as ultrasound contrast agents for visualizing opacification of the left ventricle in echocardiography. However, the interaction of ultrasound waves with intravenously-injected lipid-shelled particles, including both liposomes and microbubbles, is a far richer field. Particles can be designed for molecular imaging and loaded with drugs or genes; the mechanical and thermal properties of ultrasound can then effect localized drug release. In this Account, we provide an overview of the engineering of lipid-shelled microbubbles (typical diameter 1000-10 000 nm) and liposomes (typical diameter 65-120 nm) for ultrasound-based applications in molecular imaging and drug delivery. The chemistries of the shell and core can be optimized to enhance stability, circulation persistence, drug loading and release, targeting to and fusion with the cell membrane, and therapeutic biological effects. To assess the biodistribution and pharmacokinetics of these particles, we incorporated positron emission tomography (PET) radioisotopes on the shell. The radionuclide (18)F (half-life approximately 2 h) was covalently coupled to a dipalmitoyl lipid, followed by integration of the labeled lipid into the shell, facilitating short-term analysis of particle pharmacokinetics and metabolism of the lipid molecule. Alternately, labeling a formed particle with (64)Cu (half-life 12.7 h), after prior covalent incorporation of a copper-chelating moiety onto the lipid shell, permits pharmacokinetic study of particles over several days. Stability and persistence in circulation of both liposomes and microbubbles are enhanced by long acyl chains and a poly(ethylene glycol) coating. Vascular targeting has been demonstrated with both nano- and microdiameter particles. Targeting affinity of the microbubble can be modulated by burying the ligand within a polymer brush layer; the application of ultrasound then reveals the ligand, enabling specific targeting of only the insonified region. Microbubbles and liposomes require different strategies for both drug loading and release. Microbubble loading is inhibited by the gas core and enhanced by layer-by-layer construction or conjugation of drug-entrapped particles to the surface. Liposome loading is typically internal and is enhanced by drug-specific loading techniques. Drug release from a microbubble results from the oscillation of the gas core diameter produced by the sound wave, whereas that from a liposome is enhanced by heat produced from the local absorption of acoustic energy within the tissue microenvironment. Biological effects induced by ultrasound, such as changes in cell membrane and vascular permeability, can enhance drug delivery. In particular, as microbubbles oscillate near a vessel wall, shock waves or liquid jets enhance drug transport. Mild heating induced by ultrasound, either before or after injection of the drug, facilitates the transport of liposomes from blood vessels to the tissue interstitium, thus increasing drug accumulation in the target region. Lipid-shelled vehicles offer many opportunities for chemists and engineers; ultrasound-based applications beyond the few currently in common use will undoubtedly soon multiply as molecular construction techniques are further refined.
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