Membrane disruption by optically controlled microbubble cavitation

Paul Prentice, Alfred Cuschieri, Kishan Dholakia, Mark Prausnitz, Paul Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

420 Citations (Scopus)


In fluids, pressure-driven cavitation bubbles have a nonlinear response that can lead to extremely high core-energy densities during the collapse phase - a process underpinning phenomena such as sonoluminescence 1 and plasma formation 2 . If cavitation occurs near a rigid surface, the bubbles tend to collapse asymmetrically, often forming fast-moving liquid jets that may create localized surface damage 3 . As encapsulated microbubbles are commonly used to improve echo generation in diagnostic ultrasound imaging, it is possible that such cavitation could also lead to jet-induced tissue damage. Certainly ultrasonic irradiation (insonation) of cells in the presence of microbubbles can lead to enhanced membrane permeabilization and molecular uptake (sonoporation) 4-7 , but, although the mechanism during low-intensity insonation is clear 8 , experimental corroboration for higher pressure regimes has remained elusive. Here we show direct observational evidence that illuminates the energetic micrometre-scale interactions between individual cells and violently cavitating shelled microbubbles. Our data suggest that sonoporation at higher intensities may arise through a synergistic interplay involving several distinct processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-110
Number of pages4
JournalNature Physics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Nov 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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    Prentice, P., Cuschieri, A., Dholakia, K., Prausnitz, M., & Campbell, P. (2005). Membrane disruption by optically controlled microbubble cavitation. Nature Physics, 1(2), 107-110.