Theses Doctoral

Optimization of Focused Ultrasound Mediated Blood-Brain Barrier Opening

Ji, Robin

Treatment of brain diseases remains extremely challenging partly due to the fact that critical drug delivery is hindered by the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a specialized and highly selective barrier lining the brain vasculature. Focused ultrasound (FUS), combined with systematically administered microbubbles (MBs), has been established as a technique to noninvasively, locally, and transiently open the BBB. The primary mechanism for temporarily opening the BBB using FUS is microbubble cavitation, a phenomenon that occurs when the circulating microbubbles interact with the FUS beam in the brain vasculature. Over the past two decades, many preclinical and clinical applications of FUS-induced BBB opening have been developed, but certain challenges, such as drug delivery route, cavitation control, inflammation onset, and overall accessibility of the technology, have affected its efficient translation to the clinic.

This dissertation focuses on optimizing three aspects of FUS-induced BBB opening for therapeutic applications. The first specific aim investigated FUS-induced BBB opening for drug delivery through the intranasal route. Optimal sonication parameters were determined and applied to FUS-enhanced intranasal delivery of neurotrophic factors in a Parkinson’s Disease mouse model. In the second specific aim, cavitation levels affecting the inflammatory response due to BBB opening with FUS were optimized. The relationship between cavitation during FUS-induced BBB opening and the local inflammation was examined, and a cavitation-based controller system was developed to modulate the inflammatory response. In the third specific aim, the devices used for FUS-induced BBB opening were streamlined. A conventional system for FUS-induced BBB opening includes two transducers: one for therapy and another for cavitation monitoring (single element) or imaging (multi-element). In this aim, a single linear array transducer capable of synchronous BBB opening and cavitation imaging was developed, creating a cost-effective and highly accessible “theranostic ultrasound” device. The feasibility of theranostic ultrasound (TUS) was demonstrated in vivo in both mice and non-human primates.

In summary, the findings and methodologies in this dissertation optimized FUS-enhanced intranasal delivery across the BBB, developed a cavitation-controlled system to modulate inflammation in the brain, which has been advantageous in reducing pathology and designed a new system for theranostic ultrasound for drug delivery to the brain. Taken altogether, this thesis contributes to the efficient advancement and optimization of FUS-induced BBB opening technology, thus enhancing its clinical adoption in the fight to treat many challenging brain diseases.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Konofagou, Elisa E.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 29, 2021