Doctors have a new weapon to add to their disease-fighting arsenal — bubbles. Tiny bubbles, smaller than the width of a human hair, are being used to diagnose, treat and prevent illness.
Stroke, cancers, furred arteries and respiratory diseases are among conditions being tackled, and many more potential uses are in the pipeline, including for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and depression.
Although doctors have used so-called microbubbles for some time to produce clearer images in body scans, only now is their full potential being realised.
Only now have doctors realised the full potential of microbubbles for treating and preventing illness
Their first use, in 1968, was in ultrasound diagnostics. The tiny bubbles reflect ultrasound waves around the body, helping clarify images of the tissue being investigated.
But microbubbles are now being used to treat diseases, too. Bubbles coated with a fat-like material, similar to egg yolk, which is easy to break down, are loaded with drugs and blasted with ultrasound to burst the bubble and unload the drug at the area it is needed. That means fewer side-effects because the drug is focused on a specific target.
Dr Eleanor Stride, reader in bio-medical engineering at Oxford University, says: ‘Microbubbles have enormous potential. Their use in the diagnosis and monitoring of heart conditions and in detection of cancer is increasing rapidly.’
Here are the latest bubble therapies used to combat disease?.?.?.
overcome tumour hypoxia for half a century, and according to researchers from the University of Colorado, microbubbles are the answer.
They have engineered bubbles of oxygen with a fat coating, which are absorbed by the cancerous tissue when injected. Once in place, focused ultrasound breaks the bubbles, releasing oxygen into the tissue. Animal tests have been successful and the team hope to start human trials.
Researchers are using microbubbles to treat lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis
Oxygen-containing bubbles have been developed to help those who may otherwise need a ventilator.
Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital in the U.S. have devised bubbles that can be injected directly into the bloodstream where they release oxygen, restoring levels to normal within seconds. Their work was prompted after a young girl with extremely low oxygen levels died before doctors could put her on the right treatment.
An earlier study showed that the bubbles, injected as a foam, could keep animals alive for 15 minutes without them having to take one breath. ‘Eventually, it could be stored in syringes on every trolley in a hospital, ambulance or emergency helicopter to help stabilise patients having difficulty breathing,’ say the researchers. They suggest the therapy would be less costly than a ventilator and more patient-friendly.
Researchers are using microbubbles to treat lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.
Scientists at Arizona University in the U.S. say that sometimes normal aerosol-based medicines do not reach tiny airsacs in the lungs. They have created microbubbles that are smaller and lighter than aerosol drop- lets; once inhaled these reach the airsacs.
In trials, the drug is wrapped around a bubble of oxygen, and studies show it helps increase the concentration of drugs deep in the lungs.
There are hopes that the treatment could be available within three years.
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