Microbubbles for Medical Applications
Ultrasound contrast agent (UCA) suspensions contain encapsulated microbubbles with radii ranging from 1 to 10 micrometers. The bubbles oscillate to the driving ultrasound pulse generating harmonics of the driving ultrasound frequency. This feature allows for the discrimination of non-linear bubble echoes from linear tissue echoes facilitating the visualization and quantification of blood perfusion in organs. Targeting the microbubbles to specific receptors in the body has led to molecular imaging application with ultrasound and targeted drug delivery with drug-loaded microbubbles. Traditional UCA production methods offer high yield but poor control over the microbubble size and uniformity. Medical ultrasound transducers typically operate at a single frequency, therefore only a small selection of bubbles resonates to the driving ultrasound pulse. Here we discuss recent lab-on-a-chip based production and sorting methods that have been shown to produce highly monodisperse bubbles, thereby improving the sensitivity of contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging and molecular imaging with microbubbles. Moreover, monodisperse UCA show great potential for targeted drug delivery by the well-controlled bubble response.