A Special Collection of Papers from the 25th European Symposium on Ultrasound Contrast Imaging
- Microbubble ultrasound contrast agents have now been in use for several decades and their safety and efficacy in a wide range of diagnostic applications have been well established. Recent progress in imaging technology is facilitating exciting developments in techniques such as molecular, 3-D and super resolution imaging and new agents are now being developed to meet their specific requirements. In parallel, there have been significant advances in the therapeutic applications of microbubbles, with recent clinical trials demonstrating drug delivery across the blood–brain barrier and into solid tumours.
- The majority of exchanges of oxygen and nutrients are performed around vessels smaller than 100 μm, allowing cells to thrive everywhere in the body. Pathologies such as cancer, diabetes and arteriosclerosis can profoundly alter the microvasculature. Unfortunately, medical imaging modalities only provide indirect observation at this scale. Inspired by optical microscopy, ultrasound localization microscopy has bypassed the classic compromise between penetration and resolution in ultrasonic imaging.
- Initial reports from the 1960s describing the observations of ultrasound contrast enhancement by tiny gaseous bubbles during echocardiographic examinations prompted the development of the first ultrasound contrast agent in the 1980s. Current commercial contrast agents for echography, such as Definity, Optison, Sonazoid and SonoVue, have proven to be successful in a variety of on- and off-label clinical indications. Whereas contrast-specific technology has seen dramatic progress after the introduction of the first approved agents in the 1990s, successful clinical translation of new developments has been limited during the same period, while understanding of microbubble physical, chemical and biologic behavior has improved substantially.
- Ultrasound molecular imaging has been developed in the past two decades with the goal of non-invasively imaging disease phenotypes on a cellular level not depicted on anatomic imaging. Such techniques already play a role in pre-clinical research for the assessment of disease mechanisms and drug effects, and are thought to in the future contribute to earlier diagnosis of disease, assessment of therapeutic effects and patient-tailored therapy in the clinical field. In this review, we first describe the chemical composition and structure as well as the in vivo behavior of the ultrasound contrast agents that have been developed for molecular imaging.
- Microbubble contrast agents were introduced more than 25 years ago with the objective of enhancing blood echoes and enabling diagnostic ultrasound to image the microcirculation. Cardiology and oncology waited anxiously for the fulfillment of that objective with one clinical application each: myocardial perfusion, tumor perfusion and angiogenesis imaging. What was necessary though at first was the scientific understanding of microbubble behavior in vivo and the development of imaging technology to deliver the original objective.