Single-cell mapping of focused ultrasound-transfected brain

Gene Ther. 2021 Feb 1;10.1038/s41434-021-00226-0. doi: 10.1038/s41434-021-00226-0. Online ahead of print.


Gene delivery via focused ultrasound (FUS) mediated blood-brain barrier (BBB) opening is a disruptive therapeutic modality. Unlocking its full potential will require an understanding of how FUS parameters (e.g., peak-negative pressure (PNP)) affect transfected cell populations. Following plasmid (mRuby) delivery across the BBB with 1 MHz FUS, we used single-cell RNA-sequencing to ascertain that distributions of transfected cell types were highly dependent on PNP. Cells of the BBB (i.e., endothelial cells, pericytes, and astrocytes) were enriched at 0.2 MPa PNP, while transfection of cells distal to the BBB (i.e., neurons, oligodendrocytes, and microglia) was augmented at 0.4 MPa PNP. PNP-dependent differential gene expression was observed for multiple cell types. Cell stress genes were upregulated proportional to PNP, independent of cell type. Our results underscore how FUS may be tuned to bias transfection toward specific brain cell types in vivo and predict how those cells will respond to transfection.