Theranostics 2013; 3(11):851-864. doi:10.7150/thno.6717

Research Paper

Nanodroplet-Mediated Histotripsy for Image-guided Targeted Ultrasound Cell Ablation

Eli Vlaisavljevich1, Yasemin Yuksel Durmaz1, Adam Maxwell2, Mohamed ElSayed1,3✉, Zhen Xu1,4✉

1. Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA;
2. Department of Urology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA;
3. Macromolecular Science and Engineering Program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA;
4. Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, Division of Pediatric Cardiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


This paper is an initial work towards developing an image-guided, targeted ultrasound ablation technique by combining histotripsy with nanodroplets that can be selectively delivered to tumor cells. Using extremely short, high-pressure pulses, histotripsy generates a dense cloud of cavitating microbubbles that fractionates tissue. We hypothesize that synthetic nanodroplets that encapsulate a perfluoropentane (PFP) core will transition upon exposure to ultrasound pulses into gas microbubbles, which will rapidly expand and collapse resulting in disruption of cells similar to the histotripsy process but at a significantly lower acoustic pressure. The significantly reduced cavitation threshold will allow histotripsy to be selectively delivered to the tumor tissue and greatly enhance the treatment efficiency while sparing neighboring healthy tissue. To test our hypothesis, we prepared nanodroplets with an average diameter of 204±4.7 nm at 37°C by self-assembly of an amphiphilic triblock copolymer around a PFP core followed by cross-linkage of the polymer shell forming stable nanodroplets. The nanodroplets were embedded in agarose tissue phantoms containing a sheet of red blood cells (RBCs), which were exposed to 2-cycle pulses applied by a 500 kHz focused transducer. Using a high speed camera to monitor microbubble generation, the peak negative pressure threshold needed to generate bubbles >50 μm in agarose phantoms containing nanodroplets was measured to be 10.8 MPa, which is significantly lower than the 28.8 MPa observed using ultrasound pulses alone. High speed images also showed cavitation microbubbles produced from the nanodroplets displayed expansion and collapse similar to histotripsy alone at higher pressures. Nanodroplet-mediated histotripsy created consistent, well-defined fractionation of the RBCs in agarose tissue phantoms at 10 Hz pulse repetition frequency similar to the lesions generated by histotripsy alone but at a significantly lower pressure. These results support our hypothesis and demonstrate the potential of using nanodroplet-mediated histotripsy for targeted cell ablation.

Keywords: Histotripsy, nanodroplets, cavitation, therapeutic ultrasound, targeted cell ablation.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) License. See for full terms and conditions.
How to cite this article:
Vlaisavljevich E, Durmaz YY, Maxwell A, ElSayed M, Xu Z. Nanodroplet-Mediated Histotripsy for Image-guided Targeted Ultrasound Cell Ablation. Theranostics 2013; 3(11):851-864. doi:10.7150/thno.6717. Available from