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Scientists Using Microbubbles To Explode Cancer Cells

10 months, 1 week ago

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Posted on Aug 13, 2020, 5 p.m.

In exciting news, an international group of scientists have been using low frequency ultrasound bursts of microscopic bubble injections in tumor research, and this explosion is suggested to kill off the majority of the surrounding cancer cells. 

The noninvasive technology was developed to kill breast cancer cells, this is a promising innovation that, in theory, perhaps could also be used in the future to treat other diseases such as brain cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. 

This groundbreaking technique was developed by Tel Aviv Universitys’ Tali Ilovistich, and it uses low frequency ultrasound to burst microscopic tumor targeted bubbles; this research was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

“Microbubbles are microscopic bubbles filled with gas, with a diameter as small as one-tenth of a blood vessel. At certain frequencies and pressures, soundwaves cause microbubbles to act like balloons: microbubbles expand and shrink periodically, and thus allow an increased transfer of substances from the blood vessel to the surrounding tissue,” Ilovitsh explained.

“We discovered that using lower frequencies than those applied before causes microbubbles to expand drastically until they explode. We understood that this discovery can be used as a tumor-treatment platform and started injecting microbubbles into tumors directly.

In a two pronged approach microbubbles were injected into tumors within mice models, the microbubbles were tumor targeted, meaning that they attached to the tumor cell membranes at the moment of explosion. To prevent the cancer from spreading every cancer cell needs to be destroyed, which is why an immunotherapeutic gene was injected alongside the microbubbles. This gene alerts the immune system to attack, but under normal conditions is not able to enter cancer cells. When introduced by the exploding microbubbles the gene entered the cancer cells not killed by the explosion and signalled the body to attack the cancerous cells. 

Around 80 percent of tumor cells were killed in the explosion, which is already positive,” Ilovitsh says.  “The targeted treatment, which is safe and cheap, managed to destroy most of the tumor.” Ilovitsh said.“That is why we injected an immunotherapeutic gene alongside the microbubbles, which acts as a Trojan horse and signals the immune system to attack the cell.”

“The cancer cells were hit by the explosion, and through the holes that were created the gene we inserted into the microbubbles was transferred inside. Cancer cells that managed to heal and close themselves absorbed the gene that makes them produce a substance alerting the immune system to attack the cell,” Ilovitsh explained.

“In fact, our model mice had tumors on both sides of the body. Despite the fact that we injected microbubbles only to the tumor on one side, the immune system attacked the other side as well,” she relates.

The team plans to use this technology to develop noninvasive treatments for brain damaging diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and brain tumors. According to Ilovitsh the blood brain barrier does not allow medications to pass, but these microbubbles may be able to expand the BBB to enable a temporary opening which could allow treatments to reach targets without an operation. 

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