Acta biomaterialia

Novel ultrasound contrast agent based on microbubbles generated from surfactant mixtures of Span 60 and polyoxyethylene 40 stearate.

PMID 20226284


In this study, novel perfluorocarbon-filled microbubbles as ultrasound contrast agent were fabricated using ultrasonication of a surfactant mixture of sorbitan monostearate (Span 60) and polyoxyethylene 40 stearate (PEG40S) in aqueous media. The microbubbles generated from a 1:9 mixture of PEG40S/Span 60 exhibited an average diameter of 2.08+/-1.27 microm. More than 99% of the microbubbles had a mean particle diameter less than 8 microm, indicating that they were appropriately sized for intravenous administration as ultrasound contrast agent. The stabilization mechanism of the microbubbles was investigated by the Langmuir-Blodgett technique including the measurements of surface pressure-area (pi-A) isotherms and compression-decompression cycles with a two-dimensional monolayer of Span 60 and PEG40S. The dependence on molar fraction of PEG40S in pi-A isotherms of mixed monolayers provided a strong evidence of interactions between the two microbubble-forming materials. It is suggested that the monolayer shell imparts good stability to the microbubbles by three means: (1) a low surface tension monolayer hinders dissolution through the reduction of surface tension, which introduces a mechanical surface pressure that counters the Laplace pressure; (2) the presence of a monolayer shell imparts a significant barrier to gas escaping from the core into the aqueous medium; and (3) encapsulation elasticity stabilizes microbubbles against diffusion-driven dissolution and explains the long shelf-life of microbubble contrast agent. The preliminary in vivo ultrasound imaging study showed that such stabilized microbubbles demonstrated excellent enhancement under grey-scale pulse inversion harmonic imaging and power Doppler imaging.

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