Formulation and characterization of echogenic lipid-pluronic nanobubbles

Tianyi M. Krupka, Luis Solorio, Robin E. Wilson, Hanping Wu, Nami Azar, Agata A. Exner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


The advent of microbubble contrast agents has enhanced the capabilities of ultrasound as a medical imaging modality and stimulated innovative strategies for ultrasound-mediated drug and gene delivery. While the utilization of microbubbles as carrier vehicles has shown encouraging results in cancer therapy, their applicability has been limited by a large size which typically confines them to the vasculature. To enhance their multifunctional contrast and delivery capacity, it is critical to reduce bubble size to the nanometer range without reducing echogenicity. In this work, we present a novel strategy for formulation of nanosized, echogenic lipid bubbles by incorporating the surfactant Pluronic, a triblock copolymer of ethylene oxide copropylene oxide coethylene oxide into the formulation. Five Pluronics (L31, L61, L81, L64 and P85) with a range of molecular weights (Mw: 1100 to 4600 Da) were incorporated into the lipid shell either before or after lipid film hydration and before addition of perfluorocarbon gas. Results demonstrate that Pluronic-lipid interactions lead to a significantly reduced bubble size. Among the tested formulations, bubbles made with Pluronic L61 were the smallest with a mean hydrodynamic diameter of 207.9 ± 74.7 nm compared to the 880.9 ± 127.6 nm control bubbles. Pluronic L81 also significantly reduced bubble size to 406.8 ± 21.0 nm. We conclude that Pluronic is effective in lipid bubble size control, and Pluronic Mw, hydrophilic-lipophilic balance (HLB), and Pluronic/lipid ratio are critical determinants of the bubble size. Most importantly, our results have shown that although the bubbles are nanosized, their stability and in vitro and in vivo echogenicity are not compromised. The resulting nanobubbles may be better suited for contrast enhanced tumor imaging and subsequent therapeutic delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-59
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Lipid
  • Nanobubbles
  • Pluronic
  • Surfactant
  • Ultrasound contrast agent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery


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