Theranostics 2013; 3(6):409-419. doi:10.7150/thno.5616

Research Paper

Lung Surfactant Microbubbles Increase Lipophilic Drug Payload for Ultrasound-Targeted Delivery

Shashank R. Sirsi1, Chinpong Fung2, Sumit Garg1, Mary Y. Tianning2, Paul A. Mountford1, Mark A. Borden1,✉

1. Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA;
2. Department of Chemical Engineering, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.

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Sirsi SR, Fung C, Garg S, Tianning MY, Mountford PA, Borden MA. Lung Surfactant Microbubbles Increase Lipophilic Drug Payload for Ultrasound-Targeted Delivery. Theranostics 2013; 3(6):409-419. doi:10.7150/thno.5616. Available from

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The cavitation response of circulating microbubbles to targeted ultrasound can be used for noninvasive, site-specific delivery of shell-loaded materials. One challenge for microbubble-mediated delivery of lipophilic compounds is the limitation of drug loading into the microbubble shell, which is commonly a single phospholipid monolayer. In this study, we investigated the use of natural lung surfactant extract (Survanta®, Abbott Nutrition) as a microbubble shell material in order to improve drug payload and delivery. Pulmonary surfactant extracts such as Survanta contain hydrophobic surfactant proteins (SP-B and SP-C) that facilitate lipid folding and retention on lipid monolayers. Here, we show that Survanta-based microbubbles exhibit wrinkles in bright-field microscopy and increased lipid retention on the microbubble surface in the form of surface-associated aggregates observed with fluorescence microscopy. The payload of a model lipophilic drug (DiO), measured by flow cytometry, increased by over 2-fold compared to lipid-coated microbubbles lacking SP-B and SP-C. Lung surfactant microbubbles were highly echogenic to contrast enhanced ultrasound imaging at low acoustic intensities. At higher ultrasound intensity, excess lipid was observed to be acoustically cleaved for localized release. To demonstrate targeting, a biotinylated lipopolymer was incorporated into the shell, and the microbubbles were subjected to a sequence of radiation force and fragmentation pulses as they passed through an avidinated hollow fiber. Lung surfactant microbubbles showed a 3-fold increase in targeted deposition of the model fluorescent drug compared to lipid-only microbubbles. Our results demonstrate that lung surfactant microbubbles maintain the acoustic responsiveness of lipid-coated microbubbles with the added benefit of increased lipophilic drug payload.

Keywords: contrast agent, echogenicity, acoustic radiation force, Survanta®, SP-B and SP-C.