Opening doors with ultrasound and microbubbles: Beating biological barriers to promote drug delivery

J. Deprez, G. Lajoinie, Y. Engelen, S. C. De Smedt*, I. Lentacker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

108 Citations (Scopus)
448 Downloads (Pure)


Apart from its clinical use in imaging, ultrasound has been thoroughly investigated as a tool to enhance drug delivery in a wide variety of applications. Therapeutic ultrasound, as such or combined with cavitating nuclei or microbubbles, has been explored to cross or permeabilize different biological barriers. This ability to access otherwise impermeable tissues in the body makes the combination of ultrasound and therapeutics very appealing to enhance drug delivery in situ. This review gives an overview of the most important biological barriers that can be tackled using ultrasound and aims to provide insight on how ultrasound has shown to improve accessibility as well as the biggest hurdles. In addition, we discuss the clinical applicability of therapeutic ultrasound with respect to the main challenges that must be addressed to enable the further progression of therapeutic ultrasound towards an effective, safe and easy-to-use treatment tailored for drug delivery in patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-36
Number of pages28
JournalAdvanced drug delivery reviews
Early online date8 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Cavitation nuclei
  • Cellular bioeffects
  • Immunotherapy
  • Sonoporation
  • Tight junctions
  • Tumor therapy


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