Novel method for the formation of monodisperse superheated perfluorocarbon nanodroplets as activatable ultrasound contrast agents
Microbubble (MB) contrast agents have positively impacted the clinical ultrasound (US) community worldwide. Their use in molecular US imaging applications has been hindered by their limited distribution to the vascular space. Acoustic droplet vaporization (ADV) of nanoscale superheated perfluorocarbon nanodroplets (NDs) demonstrates potential as an extravascular contrast agent that could facilitate US-based molecular theranostic applications. However these agents are metastable and difficult to manufacture with high yields. Here, we report a new formulation technique that yields reliable, narrowly dispersed sub-300 nm decafluorobutane (DFB) or octafluoropropane (OFP)-filled phospholipid-coated NDs that are stable at body temperature, using small volume microfluidization. Final droplet concentration was high for DFB and lower for OFP (>1012 vs. >1010 NDs per mL). Superheated ND stability was quantified using tunable resistive pulse sensing (TRPS) and dynamic light scattering (DLS). DFB NDs were stable for at least 2 hours at body temperature (37 °C) without spontaneous vaporization. These NDs are activatable in vitro when exposed to diagnostic US pressures delivered by a clinical system to become visible microbubbles. The DFB NDs were sufficiently stable to allow their processing into functionalized NDs with anti-epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) antibodies to target EpCAM positive cells.