Researchers Develop ‘Colored Microbubbles’ to Help Doctors See Inside our Bodies

November 06, 2012 05:56 PM EST By: Jennifer Rocha

University at Buffalo researchers, working in collaboration with University Health Network in Toronto, have developed a novel contrast agent that could redefine what’s possible in the evolving field of medical imaging.

Story content courtesy of the University of Buffalo, US

The contrast agent, called “porshe microbubbles,” breaks ground because it can be used jointly to create ultrasound images such as a sonogram, and images from an emerging technology called photoacoustic tomography (PAT). The result—a more detailed, nuanced picture of what’s happening inside the body—could help doctors treat everything from hypoxia to cancer.

Doctors use ultrasound for a variety of purposes.  Doctors often employ microbubbles, which are tiny bubbles of fluorinated gas injected into a patient’s bloodstream, to sharpen the grainy black-and-white images produced from ultrasound.

PAT imaging, by contrast, is a much newer technique. Doctors use pulsed laser lights to generate pressure waves that, when measured, provide a more in-depth view of what’s occurring inside the body. For example, while ultrasound can measure blood flowing through an organ, PAT can measure the oxygen levels in the blood.

Because the two techniques are complementary, there is growing interest to combine them, Lovell said. The most likely way to accomplish that would be to create “colored microbubbles,” a contrast agent that would sharpen ultrasound images and not interfere with PAT imaging, he said.

To read the paper “Porphyrin Shell Microbubbles with Intrinsic Ultrasound and Photoacoustic Properties,” visit:


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