Cardiovascular drug delivery with ultrasound and microbubbles

Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2014 Jun;72:110-26. doi: 10.1016/j.addr.2014.01.012. Epub 2014 Feb 11.


Microbubbles lower the threshold for cavitation of ultrasound and have multiple potential therapeutic applications in the cardiovascular system. One of the first therapeutic applications to enter into clinical trials has been microbubble-enhanced sonothrombolysis. Trials were conducted in acute ischemic stroke and clinical trials are currently underway for sonothrombolysis in treatment of acute myocardial infarction. Microbubbles can be targeted to epitopes expressed on endothelial cells and thrombi by incorporating targeting ligands onto the surface of the microbubbles. Targeted microbubbles have applications as molecular imaging contrast agents and also for drug and gene delivery. A number of groups have shown that ultrasound with microbubbles can be used for gene delivery yielding robust gene expression in the target tissue. Work has progressed to primate studies showing delivery of therapeutic genes to generate islet cells in the pancreas to potentially cure diabetes. Microbubbles also hold potential as oxygen therapeutics and have shown promising results as a neuroprotectant in an ischemic stroke model. Regulatory considerations impact the successful clinical development of therapeutic applications of microbubbles with ultrasound. This paper briefly reviews the field and suggests avenues for further development.

Keywords: Cardiovascular; Drug delivery; Fluorocarbons; Gene delivery; Microbubbles; Oxygen delivery; Perfluorobutane; Perfluoropentane; Perfluoropropane; Sonothrombolysis; Ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Fluorocarbons / administration & dosage
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Humans
  • Mechanical Thrombolysis
  • Microbubbles*
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage
  • Ultrasonics / methods*


  • Cardiovascular Agents
  • Fluorocarbons
  • perfluoropentane
  • Oxygen