Assessment of the safety and efficacy of microbubble exposure in diagnostic and therapeutic ultrasound

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


Gas microbubbles coated with a surfactant or polymer shell have become well established as the most effective form of contrast agent for diagnostic ultrasound imaging. More recently, the use of coated microbubbles in therapeutic applications such as targeted drug delivery has also become an active area of research. However, their behaviour in vivo is by no means fully understood and the aim of this project is to investigate the hitherto neglected problem of microbubbles excited by an ultrasound field within the confines of narrow blood vessels. The work will involve a combination of theoretical modelling and both in vitro and in vivo experiments which will enable a more rigorous assessment of the safety of ultrasound contrast agents and the development of more effective ultrasound therapies.


10 25 50
publication icon
Martynov S (2011) Forced vibrations of a bubble in a liquid-filled elastic vessel. in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

publication icon
Martynov S (2009) The natural frequencies of microbubble oscillation in elastic vessels. in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

Description The overall aim of this project was to investigate the behaviour of microbubbles excited by an ultrasound field within the confines of a narrow (~200 micron) blood vessel, in order to assess the safety and effectiveness of procedures for microbubble-enhanced ultrasound imaging and therapy. We developed mathematical and computational models of coated microbubbles oscillating within a vessel, that demonstrated a significant effect of the vessel wall on the bubble behaviour and hence ultrasound signal produced. This is extremely important for the correct interpretation of ultrasound signals for both imaging and treatment monitoring. The stresses on the vessel wall were also examined and showed there would be conditions under which damage could occur. Simultaneously at the Inst. Cancer Research an in vitro model for investigating the interaction between microbubbles and blood vessel walls experimentally was developed. The results of experiments using this model confirmed that damage to the vessel wall, including complete rupture could be produced with moderate bubble concentrations and exposure conditions.
Exploitation Route The mathematical models have more general applications in cavitation research and in combination with the experimental results have potential use in the development of safety guidelines for the use of contrast enhanced ultrasound.
Sectors Energy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description There has been considerable interest in our findings from the regulatory bodies that formulate guidelines for the safe use of ultrasound imaging. We have yet to see direct uptake of the results.
Sector Healthcare
Impact Types Societal

Description Programme grant
Amount £4,600,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/F025750/1, EP/F02617X/1 & EP/F029217/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2008 
End 06/2013
Description Research grant
Amount £180,000 (GBP)
Organisation British Heart Foundation (BHF) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2010 
End 06/2013