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J Ultrasound Med. 2011 Sep;30(9):1247-58.

Ultrasound- and liposome microbubble-mediated targeted gene transfer to cardiomyocytes in vivo accompanied by polyethylenimine.

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  • 1Department of Medical Imaging Center, First Affiliated Hospital, Jinan University, 613 Huangpu Dadao Xi, 510632 Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.



Gene transfer to cardiomyocytes in vivo has received much research attention in the last decade but remains a substantial hurdle. Gene transfer using ultrasound-targeted microbubble destruction is a promising tool for gene therapy. Little data have shown the feasibility and optimization of this method for primary myocardial disease. In this study, we sought to determine the feasibility and efficiency of in vivo gene transfer to the myocardium mediated by ultrasound-targeted microbubble destruction accompanied by polyethylenimine.


Three plasmids (luciferase reporter, red fluorescent protein reporter, and enhanced green fluorescent protein reporter) were used in this study. The ultrasound parameters were also optimized. A solution containing phosphate-buffered saline, a plasmid, plasmid complex, or polyethylenimine/plasmid, and liposome microbubbles was injected via a tail vein with (study) or without (control) transthoracic ultrasound irradiation. The efficiency of reporter gene transfer was determined by detection of luciferase activity or microscopy, and histologic investigations of the tissue specimens were performed.


Ultrasound-targeted microbubble destruction significantly increased luciferase activity in vivo compared to plasmids and microbubbles alone (P < .001). More importantly, the increase in transgene expression was significantly related to ultrasound-targeted microbubble destruction in the presence of polyethylenimine (P < .001). In addition, fluorescein expression was present in all sections that received ultrasound-targeted microbubble destruction. The fluorescent reporter genes and luciferase plasmid all had similar results. Regardless of ultrasound exposure, expression in other organs was close to a background level except for the liver and lung. Hematoxylin-eosin staining showed no notable myocardial injury or death in control and treated mice.


An atraumatic targeted gene delivery technique based on ultrasound-targeted microbubble destruction and polyethylenimine has been developed to transfect cardiomyocytes in vivo. If a suitable target gene is added, the novel technique could be highly effective in many kinds of heart disease.

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