Advances in ultrasound mediated gene therapy using microbubble contrast agents

Theranostics. 2012;2(12):1208-22. doi: 10.7150/thno.4306. Epub 2012 Dec 31.


Microbubble ultrasound contrast agents have the potential to dramatically improve gene therapy treatments by enhancing the delivery of therapeutic DNA to malignant tissue. The physical response of microbubbles in an ultrasound field can mechanically perturb blood vessel walls and cell membranes, enhancing drug permeability into malignant tissue. In this review, we discuss literature that provided evidence of specific mechanisms that enhance in vivo gene delivery utilizing microbubble contrast agents, namely their ability to 1) improving cell membrane permeability, 2) modulate vascular permeability, and 3) enhance endocytotic uptake in cells. Additionally, we review novel microbubble vectors that are being developed in order to exploit these mechanisms and deliver higher gene payloads with greater target specificity. Finally, we discuss some future considerations that should be addressed in the development of next-generation microbubbles in order to improve in vivo microbubble gene delivery. Overall, microbubbles are rapidly gaining popularity as efficient gene carriers, and combined with their functionality as imaging contrast agents, they represent powerful theranostic tools for image guided gene therapy applications.

Keywords: Cavitiation; Sonoporation; Targeted Image-Guided DNA Delivery..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / pathology
  • Contrast Media / therapeutic use*
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Genetic Therapy / trends*
  • Humans
  • Microbubbles / therapeutic use*
  • Ultrasonics*


  • Contrast Media
  • DNA