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Echocardiography. 2001 May;18(4):355-61.

Gene delivery using ultrasound contrast agents.

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Dept. of Radiology, The University of Arizona, 1501 N. Campbell Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85724-5067, USA.


With the human genome product and continuing advances in molecular biology many therapeutic genes have been discovered. In the cardiovascular system, gene therapy has the potential to improve myocardial vascularization and ameliorate congestive heart failure. For successful development of clinical gene therapy, however, effective gene delivery vectors are needed. Ultrasound contrast agents can be used to develop new, more effective vectors for gene delivery. Ultrasound contrast agents lower the threshold for cavitation by ultrasound energy. Using physical properties of microbubbles and coating materials, genetic drugs have been incorporated into ultrasound contrast agents. Gene-bearing microbubbles can be injected IV and ultrasound energy applied to the target region. As the microbubbles enter the region of insonation, the microbubbles cavitate, locally releasing DNA. Cavitation also likely causes a local shockwave that improves cellular uptake of DNA. With transthoracic ultrasound, using commercially available diagnostic ultrasound system and an IV injection of gene-bearing microbubbles, high levels of transgene expression are observed in the insonated region of the myocardium. This new technology using microbubbles and ultrasound for gene delivery merits further study and development.

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