The non-thermal effects of focused ultrasound can also be used for the precise destruction of tissue.
At high enough acoustic intensities with a short pulse duration, small gas bubbles are generated within the targeted tissue. When these bubbles are destroyed through a process called inertial cavitation, a shockwave is generated that is capable of destroying cell membranes and even liquefying or annihilating cells. The use of inertial cavitation to mechanically destroy regions of tissue is known as histotripsy, and is usually the compounded effect of multiple shockwaves. This technique can be very precise, causing minimal damage to surrounding tissue, and the bubbles used in cavitation are easily visible with ultrasound imaging, enabling accurate target verification and monitoring.
Clinically, histotripsy and is being investigated for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and various types of cancer, including liver, kidney, osteosarcoma, and soft tissue tumors.
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Video courtesy of University of Michigan Engineering.