Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Medical Miracle of Microbubbles

For the uninitiated, micro bubbles are bubbles that are 50 microns or less (which is several orders of magnitude smaller than traditional bubbles); and it is their remarkably small size and resulting unique physical composition that gives these bubbles their inherently amazing properties. Although micro bubbles can be more or less easily created, they possess many unique properties. For one, their characteristics are not shared with traditional bubbles.

Various physical forces interact with these micro bubbles differently because of their size. A deep understanding of these physical properties has resulted in applications that are far reaching and extraordinary. Micro bubble research is rapidly becoming an applied science in fields such as medicine, manufacturing and wellness. However, the medical advances demonstrated by these tiny miracles are the most promising.

Changing Medicine

Medical uses of micro bubbles are plentiful, yet are just being discovered. They have been proposed for use in cancer treatments, specifically as a drug delivery instrument that penetrates into a cell and implodes, delivering its internal contents. They are also being tested as contrast agents in ultra-sounds as well as in a technique used to detect the early warning signs of heart disease. Per the CDC, about 1 of every 4 people who die in the United States every year die from heart disease. While that may seem like a lot, when extrapolated, it comes out to a staggering average of 600,000 people every year! These numbers reveal that heart disease is the main killer in the United States. Thankfully, micro bubble technology is being tested in order to help combat these incredibly large numbers. Dr. Isabelle Masseau of the University of Missouri has conducted a study to test the feasibility of using micro bubbles to detect the early signs of heart disease. So far, this process has successfully been used to help better detect artery inflammation in pigs and has promising implications.

If Dr. Masseau is able to expand on her existing research and bring this procedure to realization in humans, then early inflammation and other warning signs for heart conditions and diseases could be detected, treated, and then maintained. This would drastically reduce the number of people killed each year. This process seems both simple and amazing at the same time. The process that Dr. Masseau has pioneered involves attaching antibodies to micro bubbles that are then injected into the bloodstream of pigs with heart disease. Because of the inherent properties of micro bubbles and these enhanced antibodies, they are able to better target artery inflammation. By using ultrasound, Dr. Masseau could pinpoint the locations where the bubbles congregated, as the gas within those bubbles reflected back the ultrasound signal. While these early breakthroughs are staggering, the future of micro bubbles looks even brighter.

The above entry is a guest blog entry.

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