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Medical Journal Coverage

Fibrin-targeted phase shift microbubbles for the treatment of microvascular obstruction

October 2023

ABSTRACT: Rationale: Microvascular obstruction (MVO) following percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is a common problem associated with adverse clinical outcomes. We are developing a novel treatment, termed sonoreperfusion (SRP), to restore microvascular patency. This entails using ultrasound-targeted microbubble cavitation (UTMC) of intravenously administered gas-filled lipid microbubbles (MBs) to dissolve obstructive microthrombi in the microvasculature. In our prior work, we used standard-sized lipid MBs. In the present study, to improve upon the efficiency and efficacy of SRP, we sought to determine the therapeutic efficacy of fibrin-targeted phase shift microbubbles (FTPSMBs) in achieving successful reperfusion of MVO. We hypothesized that owing to their much smaller size and affinity for thrombus, FTPSMBs would provide more effective dissolution of microthrombi when compared to that of the corresponding standard-sized lipid MBs. Methods: MVO in the rat hindlimb was created by direct injection of microthrombi into the left femoral artery. Definity MBs (Lantheus Medical Imaging) were infused through the jugular vein for contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging (CEUS). A transducer was positioned vertically above the hindlimb for therapeutic US delivery during the concomitant administration of various therapeutic formulations, including (1) un-targeted MBs; (2) un-targeted phase shift microbubbles (PSMBs); (3) fibrin-targeted MB (FTMBs); and (4) fibrin-targeted PSMBs (FTPSMBs). CEUS cine loops with burst replenishment were obtained at baseline (BL), 10 min post-MVO, and after each of two successive 10-minute SRP treatment sessions (TX1, TX2) and analyzed (MATLAB). Results: In-vitro binding affinity assay showed increased fibrin binding peptide (FBP) affinity for the fibrin clots compared with the untargeted peptide (DK12). Similarly, in our in-vitro model of MVO, we observed a higher binding affinity of fluorescently labeled FTPSMBs with the porcine microthrombi compared to FTMBs, PSMBs, and MBs. Finally, in our hindlimb model, we found that UTMC with FTPSMBs yielded the greatest recovery of blood volume (dB) and flow rate (dB/sec) following MVO, compared to all other treatment groups. Conclusions: SRP with FTPSMBs achieves more rapid and complete reperfusion of MVO compared to FTMBs, PSMBs, and MBs. Studies to explore the underlying physical and molecular mechanisms are underway

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Ultrasound-mediated gene delivery of factor VIII plasmids for hemophilia A gene therapy in mice

January 2022

ABSTRACT: Gene therapy offers great promises for a cure of hemophilia A resulting from factor VIII (FVIII) gene deficiency. We have developed and optimized a non-viral ultrasound-mediated gene delivery (UMGD) strategy. UMGD of reporter plasmids targeting mice livers achieved high levels of transgene expression predominantly in hepatocytes. Following UMGD of a plasmid encoding human FVIII driven by a hepatocyte-specific promoter/enhancer (pHP-hF8/N6) into the livers of hemophilia A mice, a partial phenotypic correction was achieved in treated mice. In order to achieve persistent and therapeutic FVIII gene expression, we adopted a plasmid (pHP-hF8-X10) encoding an FVIII variant with significantly increased FVIII secretion. By employing an optimized pulse-train ultrasound condition and immunomodulation, the treated hemophilia A mice achieved 25%–150% of FVIII gene expression on days 1–7 with very mild transient liver damage, as indicated by a small increase of transaminase levels that returned to normal within 3 days. Therapeutic levels of FVIII can be maintained persistently without the generation of inhibitors in mice. These results indicate that UMGD can significantly enhance the efficiency of plasmid DNA transfer into the liver. They also demonstrate the potential of this novel technology to safely and effectively treat hemophilia A


Copyright © 2022. Published by Elsevier Inc.

ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to evaluate a panel of endothelium-targeted microbubble (MB) ultrasound contrast agents bearing small peptide ligands as a human-ready approach for molecular imaging of markers of high-risk atherosclerotic plaque. Small peptide ligands with established affinity for human P-selectin, VCAM-1, LOX-1 and von Willebrand factor (VWF) were conjugated to the surface of lipid-stabilized MBs. Contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) molecular imaging of the thoracic aorta was performed in wild-type and gene-targeted mice with advanced atherosclerosis (DKO). Histology was performed on carotid endarterectomy samples from patients undergoing surgery for unstable atherosclerosis to assess target expression in humans. In DKO mice, CEUS signal for all four targeted MBs was significantly higher than that for control MBs, and was three to sevenfold higher than in wild-type mice, with the highest signal achieved for VCAM-1 and VWF. All molecular targets were present on the patient plaque surface but expression was greatest for VCAM-1 and VWF. We conclude that ultrasound contrast agents bearing small peptide ligands feasible for human use can be targeted against endothelial cell adhesion molecules for inflammatory cells and platelets for imaging advanced atherosclerotic disease.


Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier Inc.

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BACKGROUND: Molecular imaging of carotid plaque vulnerability to atheroembolic events is likely to lead to improvements in selection of patients for carotid endarterectomy (CEA). The aims of this study were to assess the relative value of endothelial inflammatory markers for this application and to develop molecular ultrasound contrast agents for their imaging.


METHODS: Human CEA specimens were obtained prospectively from asymptomatic (30) and symptomatic (30) patients. Plaques were assessed by semiquantitative immunohistochemistry for vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1), lectin-like oxidized low-density lipoprotein receptor 1, P-selectin, and von Willebrand factor. Established small peptide ligands to each of these targets were then synthesized and covalently conjugated to the surface of lipid-shelled microbubble ultrasound contrast agents, which were then evaluated in a flow chamber for binding kinetics to activated human aortic endothelial cells under variable shear conditions.


RESULTS: Expression of VCAM-1 on the endothelium of CEA specimens from symptomatic patients was 2.4-fold greater than that from asymptomatic patients (P < .01). Expression was not significantly different between groups for P-selectin (P = .43), von Willebrand factor (P = .59), or lectin-like oxidized low-density lipoprotein receptor 1 (P = .99). Although most plaques from asymptomatic patients displayed low VCAM-1 expression, approximately one in five expressed high VCAM-1 similar to plaques from symptomatic patients. In vitro flow chamber experiments demonstrated that VCAM-1-targeted microbubbles bind cells that express VCAM-1, even under high-shear conditions that approximate those found in human carotid arteries, whereas binding efficiency was lower for the other agents.


CONCLUSIONS: VCAM-1 displays significantly higher expression on high-risk (symptomatic) vs low-risk (asymptomatic) carotid plaques. Ultrasound contrast agents bearing ligands for VCAM-1 can sustain high-shear attachment and may be useful for identifying patients in whom more aggressive treatment is warranted.


Copyright © 2018 Society for Vascular Surgery.

Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Introduction: Current treatment of patients with an acute occlusion of a cranial or a coronary artery, in for example ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), consists of either thrombolysis or percutaneous intervention. Various thrombolytic agents (tissue plasminogen activators) are used for reperfusion therapy in patients with STEMI. However, their use may be associated with an increased risk of bleeding which is inherent to their action mechanism. Therefore, new methods of coronary clot resolution are being studied in an attempt to potentiate the efficacy and reduce the side effects of thrombolytics. A new method is ultrasound mediated thrombus dissolution, or sonothrombolysis. The current literature exploring sonothrombolysis is diverse in size and quality. In this systematic review of the current literature, we describe cardiovascular applications of sonothrombolysis in patients. A comparison to the neurovascular application in ischemic stroke is made, as more research has been performed on patients suffering from stroke.


Methods: A systematic search was performed following the PRISMA guidelines using EMBASE and MEDLINE databases regarding sonothrombolysis in human ischemic stroke and acute myocardial infarction patients.


Results: 12 original case–control or randomized controlled trials using a combination of ultrasound and microbubbles were found. 6 trials studied ischemic stroke, and 6 trials studied acute myocardial infarction.


Conclusion: This systematic review provides up to date information on the subject of sonothrombolysis.

ABSTRACT: Microbubbles lower the threshold for cavitation of ultrasound and have multiple potential therapeutic applications in the cardiovascular system. One of the first therapeutic applications to enter into clinical trials has been microbubble-enhanced sonothrombolysis. Trials were conducted in acute ischemic stroke and clinical trials are currently underway for sonothrombolysis in treatment of acute myocardial infarction. Microbubbles can be targeted to epitopes expressed on endothelial cells and thrombi by incorporating targeting ligands onto the surface of the microbubbles. Targeted microbubbles have applications as molecular imaging contrast agents and also for drug and gene delivery. A number of groups have shown that ultrasound with microbubbles can be used for gene delivery yielding robust gene expression in the target tissue. Work has progressed to primate studies showing delivery of therapeutic genes to generate islet cells in the pancreas to potentially cure diabetes. Microbubbles also hold potential as oxygen therapeutics and have shown promising results as a neuroprotectant in an ischemic stroke model. Regulatory considerations impact the successful clinical development of therapeutic applications of microbubbles with ultrasound. This paper briefly reviews the field and suggests avenues for further development.


Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier Inc.

ABSTRACT: Ultrasound induced cavitation has been explored as a method of dissolving intravascular and microvascular thrombi in acute myocardial infarction. The purpose of this study was to determine the type of cavitation required for success, and whether longer pulse duration therapeutic impulses (sustaining the duration of cavitation) could restore both microvascular and epicardial flow with this technique. Accordingly, in 36 hyperlipidemic atherosclerotic pigs, thrombotic occlusions were induced in the mid-left anterior descending artery. Pigs were then randomized to either a) ½ dose tissue plasminogen activator (0.5 mg/kg) alone; or same dose plasminogen activator and an intravenous microbubble infusion with either b) guided high mechanical index short pulse (2.0 MI; 5 usec) therapeutic ultrasound impulses; or c) guided 1.0 mechanical index long pulse (20 usec) impulses. Passive cavitation detectors indicated the high mechanical index impulses (both long and short pulse duration) induced inertial cavitation within the microvasculature. Epicardial recanalization rates following randomized treatments were highest in pigs treated with the long pulse duration therapeutic impulses (83% versus 59% for short pulse, and 49% for tissue plasminogen activator alone; p<0.05). Even without epicardial recanalization, however, early microvascular recovery occurred with both short and long pulse therapeutic impulses (p<0.005 compared to tissue plasminogen activator alone), and wall thickening improved within the risk area only in pigs treated with ultrasound and microbubbles. We conclude that although short pulse duration guided therapeutic impulses from a diagnostic transducer transiently improve microvascular flow, long pulse duration therapeutic impulses produce sustained epicardial and microvascular re-flow in acute myocardial infarction.

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