Cell membranes often prevent large molecules such as drugs and genes from entering cells and taking effect. The mechanical force of focused ultrasound, via stable cavitation, can modify the permeability of cell membranes and enhance the absorption of these molecules.

This effect, known as sonoporation, can increase the efficacy of drugs and genes in precise areas in the body.

Stable cavitation can induce moderate and reversible changes at the cellular level, creating pores in cell membranes, allowing a greater volume of compounds to enter the cell. Additionally, stable cavitation produces acoustic streaming, which increases the flow of fluid in a cell’s environment. This increase in flow may assist in the opening of the pores, and it also directs the therapeutic molecules toward the cells, which enhances cellular uptake.

Enhanced drug delivery via sonoporation could enable treatment of tumors with dense stroma such as pancreatic tumors, and with less systemic toxicity (i.e. less circulating drug required) than with traditional chemotherapy. Focused ultrasound induced sonoporation is also an attractive option for delivery of genetic material when compared to the alternatives, because it can be used in vivo and can greatly increase the specificity of treatments. Gene therapy can be used to treat a wide range of indications from immunodeficiency disorders to Parkinson’s disease and even certain types of cancer.

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