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Ultrasound Med Biol. 2013 May;39(5):882-92. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2013.01.006. Epub 2013 Mar 1.

Controlling the size distribution of lipid-coated bubbles via fluidity regulation.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering and Environmental Sciences, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan.


Lipid-coated bubbles exhibit oscillation responses capable of enhancing the sensitivity of ultrasound imaging by improving contrast. Further improvements in performance enhancement require control of the size distribution of bubbles to promote correspondence between their resonance frequency and the frequency of the ultrasound. Here we describe a size-controlling technique that can shift the size distribution using a currently available agitation method. This technique is based on regulating the membrane dynamic fluidity of lipid mixtures and provides a general size-controlling variable that could also be applied in other fabrication methods. Three materials (1,2-dihexadecanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine, 1,2-dioctadecanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho-(1'-rac-glycerol) and polyethylene glycol 40 stearate) with distinct initial fluidities and phase behaviors were used to demonstrate the use of fluidity regulation to control bubble sizes. Bubble size distributions of different formulations were determined by electrical impedance sensing, and bubble volumes and surface areas were calculated. To confirm the relationship between regulated fluidity and mean bubble size, the membrane fluidity of each composition was determined by fluorescence anisotropy, with the results indicating linear relations in the compositions with similar main transition temperatures. Compositions with a higher molar proportion of polyethylene glycol 40 stearate showed higher fluidities and larger bubbles. B-mode ultrasound imaging was performed to investigate the echogenicity and lifetime of the fabricated bubbles, with the results indicating that co-mixing a high-transition-temperature charged lipid (i.e., 1,2-dioctadecanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho-(1'-rac-glycerol)) extends the tailoring range of this fluidity regulation technique, allowing refined and continuous changes in mean bubble size (from 0.93 to 2.86 μm in steps of ∼0.5 μm), and also prolongs bubble lifetime. The polydispersity of each composition was also determined to evaluate practicality in particular applications. Our study demonstrates a feasible approach to naturally controling bubble size distribution and provides a practical reference for other fabrication systems and ultrasound imaging applications.

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