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Shaken and stirred: how sound and bubbles can cure our troubles

Prof. Constantin-C. Coussios
Statutory Chair of Biomedical Engineering, University of Oxford

Having been traditionally perceived as a diagnostic modality, therapeutic ultrasound is rapidly emerging as a promising tool for non-invasive surgery and drug delivery. Acoustic cavitation, namely the linear or non-linear oscillation of gas or vapour-filled cavities under the effect of an ultrasound field, has been found to play a key role in all of these applications. In the context of non-invasive surgery by High Intensity Focussed Ultrasound (HIFU), the occurrence of inertial cavitation has been found to enhance the rate of heating at the ultrasound focus significantly. A novel technique developed in Oxford, known as Passive Acoustic Mapping (PAM), makes it possible to map and quantify cavitation activity occurring in tissue in real time and in 3D. Bubbles can therefore act both as a promoters and as a markers of treatment, and exploited to achieve feedback control of therapeutic ultrasound exposure in order to maximise tissue ablation for a given input acoustic energy. In the context of drug delivery, micro streaming associated with inertial cavitation has been shown to enhance the transport of drugs across biologically inaccessible interfaces, such as blood vessel walls and tumours. Bubble phenomena can be further exploited to rupture drug carriers 'on demand' in order to achieve targeted drug release. Combinations of these techniques will be illustrated in the context of drug delivery and virotherapy for cancer."

Speaker bio:

Professor Constantin Coussios (Oxford University) received his BA, MEng and PhD in engineering from the University of Cambridge and was elected to the first statutory chair in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oxford in 2011, with special responsibility for drug delivery. He founded and heads the Biomedical Ultrasonics, Biotherapy and Biopharmaceuticals Laboratory (BUBBL), a research group of 4 faculty and some 30 researchers working on a wide array of therapeutic ultrasound applications ranging fromnon-invasive surgery to drug delivery. He is the author of over 60 peer-reviewed publications in the general field of biomedical engineering and has attracted a total research income of £11m since joining Oxford in 2004. In 2007, he was the recipient of an EPSRC Challenging Engineering award, in the context of which his research group invented and developed passive acousticmapping (PAM), a novel method for real-time spatiotemporal monitoring, qualification and quantification of cavitation activity that is currently in clinical trials a the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. Prof. Coussios received the UK’s Institute of Acoustics’ Young Person’s Award for Innovation in Acoustical Engineering in 2007, was elected as Secretary-General of the International Society for Therapeutic Ultrasound between 2006-2010 and was honoured with the Society’s Fred Lizzi award in 2012. He was elected as the youngest ever Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America in 2009 for contributions to biomedical ultrasound, and received the Society’s Bruce Lindsay award in 2012. In 2008, he was one of two academic founders of the Oxford University spin-out OrganOx,which has developed a novel device for normothermic organ preservation and repair prior to transplantation that is currently in clinical trials at King's College Hospital (London).