Discovery of Ultrasound Technology

Pierre Curie and his brother, Jacques Curie, discovered the piezoelectric effect in certain crystals in Paris, France, leading to the evolution of high frequency echo-sounding techniques.


First Ultrasound Device

French professor Paul Langevin and Swiss physicist Constantin Chilowsky developed a high-frequency ultrasonic device called a hydrophone, which was used in German U-boat and submarine surveillance.

Paul Langevin Discovery

Paul Langevin discovered that a water tank insonated with high-intensity ultrasound killed fish immediately, and certain observers experienced “a painful sensation on plunging the hand in this region."


First Thought Of Therapeutic Use for Ultrasound

H. Freundlich, K. Collner, and F. Rogowski suggested the application of ultrasound to therapeutically heat tissue.

First Focusing of Ultrasound

Johannes Gruetzmacher found that an ultrasound could be focused when he placed a concave surface to a piezoelectric generator.


First Tissue Lesion

John G. Lynn et al. proposed the idea that ultrasound could be intensely focused to produce extreme heat and non-invasively destroy targeted diseased tissue within the body. They were able to produce lesions deep in bovine liver without damaging surrounding tissue.


First Focused Ultrasound Device

William Fry, a physicist veteran of naval sonar research, and his brother, Francis Fry, began civilian research at the Bioacoustic Research Laboratory (University of Illinois) and a research team developed a focused ultrasound device that mechanically aligned four focused ultrasound generators to produce a pinpoint lesion without damage to the surrounding tissue.


First Preclinical Study

John G. Lynn and Tracy J. Putcham were able to destroy cerebral tissue in animals using focused ultrasound. They treated 37 animals in all and found well-circumscribed lesions on physical examination of the areas.

First Therapeutic Use

Lars Leksell designed a specially adapted frame and ultrasound transducer for the purpose of focused ultrasound lesioning and successfully used it on patients to treat psychiatric disorders. He eventually abandoned the method due to lack of imaging and the need for craniotomies.


First Focused Ultrasound Meeting

The first major symposium on Ultrasound in Biology and Medicine was held at the University of Illinois to examine phenomena of how ultrasonic energy interacted with and acted upon biological materials.

Focused Ultrasound as Lobotomy Alternative

Petter A. Lindstrom studied the effects of focused ultrasound-mediated lesioning as an alternative to a lobotomy procedure in patients with carcinomatosis and cancer-related pain.


The “Fathers” of Focused Ultrasound

Brothers William and Francis Fry performed a partial ablation of the basal ganglia after a craniotomy using focused ultrasound.

First Research Group Dedicated to Focused Ultrasound

William Fry, Francis Fry, and Reginald C. Eggleton founded the Interscience Research Institute in Champaign, Illinois. Its goals were two-fold: to develop and apply high-intensity ultrasound instrumentation to treat neurological disorders; and to develop computer-based, low-intensity ultrasound instrumentation for visualization of the soft tissue.


Focused Ultrasound and the Brain

Russell Meyers and William Fry utilized focused ultrasound to treat numerous human patients suffering from various brain pathologies, in particular Parkinson’s disease.

First Cancer Application

M. Oka reported on the successful use of focused ultrasound to treat thyroid and breast cancers.


First Brain Cancer Treatment

Dr. Robert Heimburger was the first neurosurgeon to use a focused ultrasound device to treat brain cancer, under ultrasound guidance.

First FDA Approval

Coleman and Lizzie developed the Sonocare CST-100 Therapeutic Ultrasound System which was designed to treat glaucoma. It was the first focused ultrasound system to earn FDA approval. However, it was ultimately outdated by laser surgery.


Focused Ultrasound for BPH

N. Sanghvi et al. developed and implemented a clinical protocol for focused ultrasound treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Focused Ultrasound for Brain Tumors

A. Guthkelch and K. Hynynen et al. reported on the treatment of malignant brain tumors with focused ultrasound hyperthermia and radiation.


First Combination with MRI

K. Hynynen et al. proposed the use of noninvasive focused ultrasound using magnetic resonance imaging to guide and monitor tissue damage. The term Magnetic Resonance Guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS) was first coined.

First Blood-brain Barrier Application

K. Hynynen et al. first described a controlled, reversible, and reproducible manner of opening the blood-brain barrier, monitored by MRI.


Transcranial Research

K. Hynynen and F. Jolesz demonstrated the feasibility of using a large phased array applicator for through skull focusing and ablation and proposed the benefits of using cavitation for through skull treatments.

Manufacturer Milestones

Chongqing Haifu and INSIGHTEC were founded.


First Focused Ultrasound Society

The International Society for Therapeutic Ultrasound (ISTU) was formed to increase and diffuse knowledge of therapeutic ultrasound to the scientific and medical community.

Breakthroughs in Brain Research

K. Hynynen et al. determined that focused ultrasound, combined with microbubbles, can cause localized and reversible disruption of the blood brain barrier (BBB), a historically major obstacle in the treatment of brain diseases.

G. Clement and K. Hynynen demonstrated noninvasive focusing through human skull using a phased array and CT based planning algorithm.

In 2006, M. Kinoshita et al. demonstrated antibody delivery through the BBB using MRgFUS.


First Clinical Trials in Women's Health

C. Tempany et al. performed the first clinical trial of uterine fibroids using INSIGHTEC'S Exablate system and found the procedure feasible and safe.

F. Wu et al. performed the first focused ultrasound clinical trial for breast cancer, concluding it could be effective, safe, and feasible in the extracorporeal treatment of localized disease.

Focused Ultrasound and Immune Response

H. Zheng et al. found focused ultrasound treatment may evoke a strong immune response to combat residual tumor cells and suppress remote metastasis in cancer patients.


First US Approval of an MRgFUS Device

The FDA approved INSIGHTEC's Exablate 2000 to treat uterine fibroids. 

Foundation Began

The Focused Ultrasound Foundation was founded in Charlottesville, Virginia, to help accelerate the development and adoption of focused ultrasound.


First Brain Clinical Trial

Z. Ram et al. initiated a clinical trial to treat patients with recurrent gliomas and demonstrated that it was a potentially effective way of destroying tissue.

Demonstrating Drug Delivery

L. Treat et al. demonstrated chemotherapy delivery (Doxil) into the brain.


Philips Enters the Industry

Philips unveiled MRgFUS system Sonalleve, initially used to treat uterine fibroids.

Focused Ultrasound for Pain

E. Martin, D. Jeanmonod et al. conducted successful clinical trials that used focused ultrasound targeting the thalamus to treat neuropathic pain.


First Movement Disorder Trial

W. Elias et al. successfully treated the first 15 patients with essential tremor at the University of Virginia in a pilot trial. All patients noted a significant decrease in their tremors.

Regulatory Wins

The FDA approved focused ultrasound for the treatment of pain from bone metastases.

Theraclion's EchoPulse received CE marking in Europe to treat breast fibroadenoma.


Addressing Challenging Cancers

M. Aryal, Y. Zhang et al. demonstrated that focused ultrasound can enhance delivery of anti-cancer drugs (Doxirubicin) and have a therapeutic effect on gliomas in a rat model.

HF. Gao et al. performed the first clinical trial using focused ultrasound to treat local advanced pancreatic cancer.

Focused Ultrasound for Bone Cancer Pain

Hurwitz et al. demonstrated that MRgFUS is a safe, effective, and noninvasive treatment for alleviating pain resulting from bone metastases.


First Pediatric Patient in North America

The first pediatric osteoid osteoma (bone tumor) was treated in a clinical trial conducted by The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. The Foundation funded the trial.

Approvals to Treat the Prostate

Two focused ultrasound devices - EDAP’s Ablatherm Robotic HIFU and SonaCare Medical’s Sonablate 450 - earned FDA approval to ablate prostate tissue. This technique could be used to treat conditions like prostate cancer and BPH.

In 2016, Profound Medical's TULSA-PRO device earned CE approval to ablate prostate tissue.


John Grisham's Focused Ultrasound Book

John Grisham wrote “The Tumor,” a book about the potential for focused ultrasound, to raise awareness of the technology. In a year, more than 800,000 copies were distributed.

Essential Tremor Approval

Insightec's Exablate Neuro device is approved to treat essential tremor in the US and Canada. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services subsequently assigned the procedure a payment level, the first step toward Medicare reimbursement.


First Alzheimer's Disease Trial

The first clinical trial for Alzheimer's disease began at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Canada.

Partnering on Immunotherapy

The Focused Ultrasound Foundation partnered with the Cancer Research Institute to futher focused ultrasound and immunotherapy combination approaches to treat cancer. The pair funded their first joint project in 2018.

The first clinical trial combining focused ultrasound with an immunotherapy drug began for patients with metastatic breast cancer at the University of Virginia.


Veterinary Applications

The Foundation launched a veterinary program and funded initial trials in canine cancer and wound healing.

Profound Medical Transforms Industry

Toronto-based Profound Medical announced that it will acquire Philips’ Sonalleve MR-HIFU business.


Neurological Clinical Trials

A multisite clinical trial to treat the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease began at Weill Cornell in New York.

University of Maryland researchers began the first US trial to open the blood-brain barrier in brain tumor  patients.

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