Reversible Cavitation-Induced Junctional Opening in an Artificial Endothelial Layer

Small. 2019 Dec;15(51):e1905375. doi: 10.1002/smll.201905375. Epub 2019 Nov 25.


Targeting pharmaceuticals through the endothelial barrier is crucial for drug delivery. In this context, cavitation-assisted permeation shows promise for effective and reversible opening of intercellular junctions. A vessel-on-a-chip is exploited to investigate and quantify the effect of ultrasound-excited microbubbles-stable cavitation-on endothelial integrity. In the vessel-on-a-chip, the endothelial cells form a complete lumen under physiological shear stress, resulting in intercellular junctions that exhibit barrier functionality. Immunofluorescence microscopy is exploited to monitor vascular integrity following vascular endothelial cadherin staining. It is shown that microbubbles amplify the ultrasound effect, leading to the formation of interendothelial gaps that cause barrier permeabilization. The total gap area significantly increases with pressure amplitude compared to the control. Gap opening is fully reversible with gap area distribution returning to the control levels 45 min after insonication. The proposed integrated platform allows for precise and repeatable in vitro measurements of cavitation-enhanced endothelium permeability and shows potential for validating irradiation protocols for in vivo applications.

Keywords: cavitation; drug delivery; endothelial junctions; permeabilization; vessel-on-a-chip.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Endothelial Cells / cytology*
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells
  • Humans
  • Microbubbles
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence