Nitric oxide delivery by ultrasonic cracking: some limitations

Michiel Postema, Bouakaz, A., ten Cate, F. J., Georg Schmitz, de Jong, N., van Wamel, A.

Ultrasonics 2006 44(S1):e109-e113.


Abstract

Nitric oxide (NO) has been implicated in smooth muscle relaxation. Its use has been widespread in cardiology. Due to the effective scavenging of NO by hemoglobin, however, the drug has to be applied locally or in large quantities, to have the effect desired. We propose the use of encapsulated microbubbles that act as a vehicle to carry the gas to a region of interest. By applying a burst of high-amplitude ultrasound, the shell encapsulating the gas can be cracked. Consequently, the gas is released upon which its dissolution and diffusion begins. This process is generally referred to as (ultra)sonic cracking.

To test if the quantities of released gas are high enough to allow for NO-delivery in small vessels (ø < 200 ?m), we analyzed high-speed optical recordings of insonified stiff-shelled microbubbles. These microbubbles were subjected to ultrasonic cracking using 0.5 or 1.7 MHz ultrasound with mechanical index MI > 0.6. The mean quantity released from a single microbubble is 1.7 fmol. This is already more than the NO production of a 1 mm long vessel with a 50 ?m diameter during 100 ms. However, we simulated that the dissolution time of typical released NO microbubbles is equal to the half-life time of NO in whole blood due to scavenging by hemoglobin (1.8 ms), but much smaller than the extravascular half-life time of NO (>90 ms).

We conclude that ultrasonic cracking can only be a successful means for nitric oxide delivery, if the gas is released in or near the red blood cell-free plasma next to the endothelium. A complicating factor in the in vivo situation is the variation in blood pressure. Although our simulations and acoustic measurements demonstrate that the dissolution speed of free gas increases with the hydrostatic pressure, the in vitro acoustic amplitudes suggest that the number of released microbubbles decreases at higher hydrostatic pressures. This indicates that ultrasonic cracking mostly occurs during the expansion phase.

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