Acoustic cavitation can be used to temporarily disrupt cell membranes for intracellular delivery of large biomolecules. Termed sonoporation, the ability of this technique for efficient intracellular delivery (i.e., >50% of initial cell population showing uptake) while maintaining cell viability (i.e., >50% of initial cell population viable) has proven to be very difficult. Here, we report that phase-shift nanoemulsions (PSNEs) function as inertial cavitation nuclei for improvement of sonoporation efficiency. The interplay between ultrasound frequency, resultant microbubble dynamics and sonoporation efficiency was investigated experimentally. Acoustic emissions from individual microbubbles nucleated from PSNEs were captured using a broadband passive cavitation detector during and after acoustic droplet vaporization with short pulses of ultrasound at 1, 2.5 and 5 MHz. Time domain features of the passive cavitation detector signals were analyzed to estimate the maximum size (Rmax) of the microbubbles using the Rayleigh collapse model. These results were then applied to sonoporation experiments to test if uptake efficiency is dependent on maximum microbubble size before inertial collapse. Results indicated that at the acoustic droplet vaporization threshold, Rmax was approximately 61.7 ± 5.2, 24.9 ± 2.8, and 12.4 ± 2.1 μm at 1, 2.5 and 5 MHz, respectively. Sonoporation efficiency increased at higher frequencies, with efficiencies of 39.5 ± 13.7%, 46.6 ± 3.28% and 66.8 ± 5.5% at 1, 2.5 and 5 MHz, respectively. Excessive cellular damage was seen at lower frequencies because of the erosive effects of highly energetic inertial cavitation. These results highlight the importance of acoustic cavitation control in determining the outcome of sonoporation experiments. In addition, PSNEs may serve as tailorable inertial cavitation nuclei for other therapeutic ultrasound applications.
Burgess, Mark T., and Tyrone M. Porter. "Control of Acoustic Cavitation for Efficient Sonoporation with Phase-Shift Nanoemulsions." Ultrasound in medicine & biology (2019).