Focused ultrasound has great potential to treat a variety of medical disorders. Focused ultrasound energy is focused on target tissue deep in the body without incisions or the use of harmful ionising radiation.
Fundamentally, the technology uses a number of intersecting sound beams to penetrate deep in the tissue to a target region. A magnifying glass is often used as an analogy. Whilst the sun’s individual rays are not intense. When they are focused with a magnifying glass they are much more intense.
This is important because it means the high energy only reaches the target region and other parts of the body aren’t affected.
Here the tissue at the target region is heated so much that it destroys the cells. The ablation area can be changed to be either a very small spot or a large area. The tissue can be ablated through a number of firings at the
Ultrasound can also be used to assist with drug delivery. Tissues can be warmed with ultrasound to increase their perfusion (blood uptake) and thus drug uptake too. Ultrasound can also be used to open the blood brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is an imaginary barrier that is very effective at stopping foreign objects such as drugs entering the bloody supply to the brain. A very small region can be ablated opening a hole in the vasculature. This allows drugs to enter the brain.
Researchers are also working on the development of functionalised microbubbles. This involves attaching drugs to the outside of very small air bubbles which are injected into the blood stream. Because of the way ultrasound interacts with air, this allows the drugs to be manipulated and then be burst to deliver drugs to the target area.