Liposomes are clinically used drug carriers designed to improve the delivery of drugs to specific tissues while minimising systemic distribution. However, liposomes are unable to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and enter the brain, mostly due to their large size (ca. 100 nm). A noninvasive and localised method of delivering liposomes across the BBB is to intravenously inject microbubbles and apply long pulses of ultrasound (pulse length: >1 ms) to a targeted brain region. Recently, we have shown that applying rapid short pulses (RaSP) (pulse length: 5 μs) can deliver drugs with an improved efficacy and safety profile. However, this was tested with a relatively smaller 3-kDa molecule (dextran). In this study, we examine whether RaSP can deliver liposomes to the murine brain in vivo. Fluorescent DiD-PEGylated liposomes were synthesized and injected intravenously alongside microbubbles. The left hippocampus of mice was then sonicated with either a RaSP sequence (5 μs at 1.25 kHz in groups of 10 ms at 0.5 Hz) or a long pulse sequence (10 ms at 0.5 Hz), with each pulse having a 1-MHz centre frequency (0.35 and 0.53 MPa). The delivery and distribution of the fluorescently-labelled liposomes were assessed by fluorescence imaging of the brain sections. The safety profile of the sonicated brains was assessed by histological staining. RaSP was shown to locally deliver liposomes across the BBB at 0.53 MPa with a more diffused and safer profile compared to the long pulse ultrasound sequence. Cellular uptake of liposomes was observed in neurons and microglia, while no uptake within astrocytes was observed in both RaSP and long pulse-treated brains. This study shows that RaSP allows a targeted and safe delivery of liposomal drugs into the murine brain with potential to deliver drugs into neuronal and glial targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-615
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of controlled release : official journal of the Controlled Release Society
Early online date10 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Liposome delivery to the brain with rapid short-pulses of focused ultrasound and microbubbles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this