Theranostics 2018; 8(2):341-357. doi:10.7150/thno.20781

Research Paper

Circulating Magnetic Microbubbles for Localized Real-Time Control of Drug Delivery by Ultrasonography-Guided Magnetic Targeting and Ultrasound

Beata Chertok1,2✉, Robert Langer3,4,5,6

1. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, United States;
2. Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Unities States;
3. Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA;
4. David H Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA;
5. Institute for Medical Engineering & Science, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA;
6. Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Image-guided and target-selective modulation of drug delivery by external physical triggers at the site of pathology has the potential to enable tailored control of drug targeting. Magnetic microbubbles that are responsive to magnetic and acoustic modulation and visible to ultrasonography have been proposed as a means to realize this drug targeting strategy. To comply with this strategy in vivo, magnetic microbubbles must circulate systemically and evade deposition in pulmonary capillaries, while also preserving magnetic and acoustic activities in circulation over time. Unfortunately, challenges in fabricating magnetic microbubbles with such characteristics have limited progress in this field. In this report, we develop magnetic microbubbles (MagMB) that display strong magnetic and acoustic activities, while also preserving the ability to circulate systemically and evade pulmonary entrapment.

Methods: We systematically evaluated the characteristics of MagMB including their pharmacokinetics, biodistribution, visibility to ultrasonography and amenability to magneto-acoustic modulation in tumor-bearing mice. We further assessed the applicability of MagMB for ultrasonography-guided control of drug targeting.

Results: Following intravenous injection, MagMB exhibited a 17- to 90-fold lower pulmonary entrapment compared to previously reported magnetic microbubbles and mimicked circulation persistence of the clinically utilized Definity microbubbles (>10 min). In addition, MagMB could be accumulated in tumor vasculature by magnetic targeting, monitored by ultrasonography and collapsed by focused ultrasound on demand to activate drug deposition at the target. Furthermore, drug delivery to target tumors could be enhanced by adjusting the magneto-acoustic modulation based on ultrasonographic monitoring of MagMB in real-time.

Conclusions: Circulating MagMB in conjunction with ultrasonography-guided magneto-acoustic modulation may provide a strategy for tailored minimally-invasive control over drug delivery to target tissues.

Keywords: theranostics, magnetic microbubbles, lung evading microparticles, image-guided drug delivery, remote-controlled drug delivery.

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How to cite this article:
Chertok B, Langer R. Circulating Magnetic Microbubbles for Localized Real-Time Control of Drug Delivery by Ultrasonography-Guided Magnetic Targeting and Ultrasound. Theranostics 2018; 8(2):341-357. doi:10.7150/thno.20781. Available from