Skip to main content
The Making of Medicine

$3 Million for a New Use for Focused Ultrasound

Our Richard J. Price, PhD, and Petr Tvrdik, PhD, have received more than $3 million from the National Institutes of Health to explore the potential of focused soundwaves to treat debilitating cavernomas.

Cavernomas, also known as cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs), are tangled overgrowths of capillaries in the brain or spinal cord. They can cause seizures, headaches, paralysis and even death. CCMs are thought to strike approximately one in 500 people, though many are asymptomatic.

For patients whose cavernomas are problematic, treatment can be difficult. Surgery is often risky, and the brain's natural protective barrier can prevent the delivery of drugs needed to treat the condition.

Professors Price and Tvrdik hope focused ultrasound will offer answers. They aim to use tiny microbubbles in conjunction with focused sound waves to breach the brain's protective barrier temporarily, so that drugs can enter exactly where needed. Once the medication is delivered, the barrier would be allowed to close.

The researchers' efforts have already produced promising results. They found that the sound wave-microbubble combo alone -- even without medication -- was enough to stabilize CCMs in lab mice. That suggests that there could be additional benefits to the approach even beyond drug delivery.

“Given our outstanding focused ultrasound infrastructure and neurosurgical expertise at UVA, I am hopeful that we can translate successful pre-clinical findings into trials fairly soon,” said Price, the co-director of our Health’s Focused Ultrasound Cancer Immunotherapy Center. “I continue to be fascinated by how we can safely and non-invasively manipulate tissue and blood vessels in a controlled manner with sound waves. Fingers crossed this is yet another disease indication that will benefit from focused ultrasound technology.”

Reply & View Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *