An acoustic wavelet technology for delivering smart imaging probes to the brain

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Bioengineering


Aim of the PhD Project:

Create an acoustic wavelet technology that delivers imaging probes across the blood-brain barrier.

Synthesise new and existing single- and dual-modality imaging probes.

Image the delivered imaging probes using MRI and fluorescence experiments.

Project Description / Background:

Molecular imaging probes have the potential to transform neuroimaging. Whereas CT and conventional MRI provide structural and anatomic information of the brain, molecular probes can identify processes that are specific to a disease and its stage. This could allow doctors to classify the disease earlier and more accurately, and match it with the best therapeutic option (i.e., personalised medicine). Some important unmet needs include locating hidden cancer cells after surgical removal of a glioblastoma tumour; and identifying Alzheimer's disease early so that the correct treatments can be initiated.

However, molecular imaging probes cannot enter the brain, because of the blood-brain barrier, and thus remain impractical. Thus, at the moment, molecular imaging targets are constrained to intravascular targets, such as receptors on endothelial cells, which are unlikely to be direct indicators of the disease. We would like to widen the scope of molecular imaging probes to all extravascular targets - neurons, microglial cells, and disease processes in the extracellular space (e.g., ABeta plaques in Alzheimer's disease).

Dr. Choi's lab has developed an acoustic wavelet technology that can deliver drugs across the blood-brain barrier. Acoustic wavelets are short, low-pressure ultrasound pulses. Meanwhile, Prof. Long's lab specialises in creating molecular imaging probes. In this PhD project, we would like to combine the wavelet technology with these imaging probes to create a platform for imaging specific disease processes using MRI or other imaging modalities.

To enable the use of molecular imaging probes by wavelet delivery, it must not damage the blood-brain barrier and brain tissue. We have developed an acoustic wavelet sequence for blood-brain barrier opening (Fig. 1). In a recent publication Radiology (2019), we have shown the following:

Diffuse delivery of drugs to parenchyma
Delivery into cells
Short duration BBB permeability change (< 20 min)
Size-selective BBB permeability change


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S022104/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2028
2442183 Studentship EP/S022104/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 William Lim Kee Chang