Removal of ligand-bound liposomes from cell surfaces by microbubbles exposed to ultrasound

Stuart Ibsen, Ruben Mora, Guixin Shi, Carolyn Schutt, Wenjin Cui, Michael Benchimol, Viviana Serra, Sadik Esener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gas-filled microbubbles attached to cell surfaces can interact with focused ultrasound to create microstreaming of nearby fluid. We directly observed the ultrasound/microbubble interaction and documented that under certain conditions fluorescent particles that were attached to the surface of live cells could be removed. Fluorescently labeled liposomes that were larger than 500 nm in diameter were attached to the surface of endothelial cells using cRGD targeting to αvβ3 integrin. Microbubbles were attached to the surface of the cells through electrostatic interactions. Images taken before and after the ultrasound exposure were compared to document the effects on the liposomes. When exposed to ultrasound with peak negative pressure of 0.8 MPa, single microbubbles and groups of isolated microbubbles were observed to remove targeted liposomes from the cell surface. Liposomes were removed from a region on the cell surface that averaged 33.1 μm in diameter. The maximum distance between a single microbubble and a detached liposome was 34.5 μm. Single microbubbles were shown to be able to remove liposomes from over half the surface of a cell. The distance over which liposomes were removed was significantly dependent on the resting diameter of the microbubble. Clusters of adjoining microbubbles were not seen to remove liposomes. These observations demonstrate that the fluid shear forces generated by the ultrasound/microbubble interaction can remove liposomes from the surfaces of cells over distances that are greater than the diameter of the microbubble.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-510
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Biological Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Biochemical targeting
  • Cavitation
  • Cell membrane
  • Endothelial cells
  • Microbubbles
  • Microstreaming
  • Shear stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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