Improving release of liposome-encapsulated drugs with focused ultrasound and vaporizable droplet-liposome nanoclusters

Arvin Honari, Darrah A. Merillat, Aditi Bellary, Mohammadaref Ghaderi, Shashank R. Sirsi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Active targeted delivery of small molecule drugs is becoming increasingly important in personalized therapies, especially in cancer, brain disorders, and a wide variety of other diseases. However, effective means of spatial targeting and delivering high drug payloads in vivo are still lacking. Focused ultrasound combined with superheated phase-shift nanodroplets, which vaporize into microbubbles using heat and sound, are rapidly becoming a popular strategy for targeted drug delivery. Focused ultrasound can target deep tissue with excellent spatial precision and without using ionizing energy, thus can activate nanodroplets in circulation. One of the main limitations of this technology has been poor drug loading in the droplet core or the shell material. To address this need, we have developed a strategy to combine low-boiling point decafluorabutane and octafluoro-propane (DFB and OFP) nanodroplets with drug-loaded liposomes, creating phase-changeable droplet-liposome clusters (PDLCs). We demonstrate a facile method of assembling submicron PDLCs with high drug-loading capacity on the droplet surface. Furthermore, we demonstrate that chemical tethering of liposomes in PDLCs enables a rapid release of their encapsulated cargo upon acoustic activation (> 60% using OFP-based PDLCs). Rapid uncaging of small molecule drugs would make them immediately bioavailable in target tissue or promote better penetration in local tissue following intravascular release. PDLCs developed in this study can be used to deliver a wide variety of liposome-encapsulated therapeutics or imaging agents for multi-modal imaging applica-tions. We also outline a strategy to deliver a surrogate encapsulated drug, fluorescein, to tumors in vivo using focused ultrasound energy and PDLCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number609
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Acoustic droplet vaporization
  • Acoustic targeting
  • Drug uncaging
  • Focused ultrasound
  • Phase-shift contrast agents
  • Ultrasound-mediated drug delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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