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Ultrasound Med Biol. 2010 Jan;36(1):58-67. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2009.08.006.

Molecules of various pharmacologically-relevant sizes can cross the ultrasound-induced blood-brain barrier opening in vivo.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.


Focused ultrasound (FUS) is hereby shown to noninvasively and selectively deliver compounds at pharmacologically relevant molecular weights through the opened blood-brain barrier (BBB). A complete examination on the size of the FUS-induced BBB opening, the spatial distribution of the delivered agents and its dependence on the agent's molecular weight were imaged and quantified using fluorescence microscopy. BBB opening in mice (n=13) was achieved in vivo after systemic administration of microbubbles and subsequent application of pulsed FUS (frequency: 1.525MHz, peak-rarefactional pressure in situ: 570 kPa) to the left murine hippocampus through the intact skin and skull. BBB-impermeant, fluorescent-tagged dextrans at three distinct molecular weights spanning over several orders of magnitude were systemically administered and acted as model therapeutic compounds. First, dextrans of 3 and 70 kDa were delivered trans-BBB while 2000 kDa dextran was not. Second, compared with 70 kDa dextran, a higher concentration of 3 kDa dextran was delivered through the opened BBB. Third, the 3 and 70 kDa dextrans were both diffusely distributed throughout the targeted brain region. However, high concentrations of 70 kDa dextran appeared more punctated throughout the targeted region. In conclusion, FUS combined with microbubbles opened the BBB sufficiently to allow passage of compounds of at least 70 kDa, but not greater than 2000 kDa into the brain parenchyma. This noninvasive and localized BBB opening technique could, thus, provide a unique means for the delivery of compounds of several magnitudes of kDa that include agents with shown therapeutic promise in vitro but whose in vivo translation has been hampered by their associated BBB impermeability. (E-mail:

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