Miniature High-Intensity Focussed Ultrasound Arrays for Targeted Drug Delivery

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Electronic and Electrical Engineering


There exists a wide range of therapeutic agents, including genetic material, proteins, and chemotherapeutic agents, whose function can only be fulfilled if they are deployed into specific location of the body. Thus, a targeted delivery approach would enhance the drug effectiveness. There is a spectrum of ultrasonic assistance methods for delivery of such agents, with this research project specifically concentrating on the design and implementation of a high intensity focussed array integrated into a needle assembly.

The PhD will encompass a broad range of technical challenges, with the primary objective to develop a prototype high power ultrasound (HPUS) needle fully characterised and evaluated using medical phantoms. The key work packages of the PhD research programme are:

1. Design and fabrication of the high power ultrasonic devices
2. Miniaturisation of the HPUS transducers
3. Integration of the transducers into needle assembly
4. Characterisation and evaluation of targeted delivery though imaging the area within a medical phantom
5. Maximizing the efficiency of the process while keeping the power output within appropriate medical safety limits

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509760/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1859405 Studentship EP/N509760/1 01/10/2016 31/03/2020 Alexandru Corneliu Moldovan
Description The catheter ultrasound transducer I am designing and manufacturing is aimed to increase the uptake of chemotherapeutic drugs in solid liver tumors close to large blood vessels. This ultrasound therapy known as sonoporation is difficult to be performed by classic external ultrasound transducers because of the liver position inside the rib cage. My approach is to miniaturize an ultrasonic transducer and insert it in the liver by the use of a catheter. My transducer is designed as a phased array in order to allow dynamic focus of the ultrasound beam which reduces the mechanical motion of the catheter (and the procedure invasiveness). The challenges I have been facing were related to the reduced size of the transducer which is in opposition with the high power demand for the therapeutic procedure.
Exploitation Route Academic: the transducer that I am currently developing can be used for in vitro and ultimately in vivo trials.
Sectors Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description Collaboration with Glasgow University 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have been actively collaborating with the Medical & Industrial Ultrasonics research cluster at Glasgow University. I have manufactured a single element composite transducer for a BBSRC funded PhD student at Glasgow University for sonoporation purposes. I have also been offering support to the researcher with regards to transducer characterization, control and pressure/ power measurement. I have also taken part in a cavitation project with Dr Paul Prentice, lecturer at University of Glasgow which resulted in the submission of a paper to 'Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology'. The paper is currently under further revision by the journal editors.
Collaborator Contribution I have been co-supervised by Prof Sandy Cochran, who has kindly allowed me access to their transducer manufacturing capabilities, which has eased my transducer manufacturing process. I have also received invaluable training in using various pieces of equipment by staff working in Medical & Industrial Ultrasonics research cluster.
Impact A transducer manufactured and characterized by me for a BBSRC funded PhD student at Glasgow University for sonoporation research. I am co-author on a paper about acoustic emissions from microbubbles which is currently under review by 'Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology' journal.
Start Year 2016
Title Catheter Transducer Array for Internal Hepatic Sonoporation 
Description I am developing a Catheter Transducer Array for Internal Hepatic Sonoporation. This involved the development of a software program to design and optimize composite piezoelectric transducer arrays for the purpose of therapeutic ultrasound. I then manufactured the transducers using the traditional dice and fill technique. Ia am currently working on connecting the manufactured transducers to an array controller in order to evaluate their performance. 
Type Therapeutic Intervention - Medical Devices
Current Stage Of Development Initial development
Year Development Stage Completed 2019
Development Status Under active development/distribution
Impact This device is intended to increase the absorption rate of chemotherapeutic agents in harder to reach tumors like hepatic cancer by use of sonoporation. The ultrasound transducer is designed to fit into a 11-Fr catheter. The invasiveness of the procedure is reduced due to the phased array design of the transducer that allows to electronically steer and focus the ultrasound beam. This in turn allows for greater tissue coverage without the requirement of mechanical motion of the catheter (which is characteristic to single element transducers) and better targeting of the tumor while sparing the healthy tissue around it.