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J Appl Phys. 2011 Apr 15;109(8):84906-8490610. Epub 2011 Apr 21.

Rupture threshold characterization of polymer-shelled ultrasound contrast agents subjected to static overpressure.

Abstract

Polymer-shelled micro-bubbles are employed as ultrasound contrast agents (UCAs) and vesicles for targeted drug delivery. UCA-based delivery of the therapeutic payload relies on ultrasound-induced shell rupture. The fragility of two polymer-shelled UCAs manufactured by Point Biomedical or Philips Research was investigated by characterizing their response to static overpressure. The nominal diameters of Point and Philips UCAs were 3 μm and 2 μm, respectively. The UCAs were subjected to static overpressure in a glycerol-filled test chamber with a microscope-reticule lid. UCAs were reconstituted in 0.1 mL of water and added over the glycerol surface in contact with the reticule. A video-microscope imaged UCAs as glycerol was injected (5 mL∕h) to vary the pressure from 2 to 180 kPa over 1 h. Neither UCA population responded to overpressure until the rupture threshold was exceeded, which resulted in abrupt destruction. The rupture data for both UCAs indicated three subclasses that exhibited different rupture behavior, although their mean diameters were not statistically different. The rupture pressures provided a measure of UCA fragility; the Philips UCAs were more resilient than Point UCAs. Results were compared to theoretical models of spherical shells under compression. Observed variations in rupture pressures are attributed to shell imperfections. These results may provide means to optimize polymeric UCAs for drug delivery and elucidate associated mechanisms.

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