Drug and gene delivery across the blood-brain barrier with focused ultrasound

J Control Release. 2015 Dec 10;219:61-75. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2015.08.059. Epub 2015 Sep 8.


The blood-brain barrier (BBB) remains one of the most significant limitations to treatments of central nervous system (CNS) disorders including brain tumors, neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders. It is now well-established that focused ultrasound (FUS) in conjunction with contrast agent microbubbles may be used to non-invasively and temporarily disrupt the BBB, allowing localized delivery of systemically administered therapeutic agents as large as 100nm in size to the CNS. Importantly, recent technological advances now permit FUS application through the intact human skull, obviating the need for invasive and risky surgical procedures. When used in combination with magnetic resonance imaging, FUS may be applied precisely to pre-selected CNS targets. Indeed, FUS devices capable of sub-millimeter precision are currently in several clinical trials. FUS mediated BBB disruption has the potential to fundamentally change how CNS diseases are treated, unlocking potential for combinatorial treatments with nanotechnology, markedly increasing the efficacy of existing therapeutics that otherwise do not cross the BBB effectively, and permitting safe repeated treatments. This article comprehensively reviews recent studies on the targeted delivery of therapeutics into the CNS with FUS and offers perspectives on the future of this technology.

Keywords: Blood–brain barrier; CNS drug delivery; Focused ultrasound; Nanoparticles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Nanoparticles / administration & dosage
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Polymers / administration & dosage
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Ultrasonic Waves*


  • Polymers