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Ultrasound is investigated as a novel drug delivery tool within cancer therapy. Non-thermal ultrasound treatment of solid tumours post i.v.-injection of drug-carrying liposomes may induce local drug release from the carrier followed by enhanced intracellular drug uptake. Recently, ultrasound-mediated drug release of liposomes (sonosensitivity) was shown to strongly depend on liposome membrane composition. In the current study the ultrasound-mediated drug release mechanism of liposomes was investigated. The results showed that differences in ultrasound drug release kinetics obtained for different liposomal compositions were caused by distinctive release mechanisms of the carriers. Two types of liposomes composed of 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylethanolamine (DOPE) and hydrogenated soy L-α-phosphatidylcholine (HSPC) as main lipids, respectively, were recently shown to vary in sonosensitivity. Here, these liposomes were analyzed prior to and after a given ultrasound-exposure for their mean size, size distribution and morphology. Cryo-transmission electron microscopy, dynamic light scattering and asymmetric flow field-flow fractionation in combination with multi-angle light scattering revealed a significant change in mean size, size distribution and morphology of DOPE-based liposomes after ultrasound, pointing to an irreversible disruption of the vesicles and concomitant drug release. In contrast, the HSPC-based liposomes remained unchanged in size and structure after ultrasound application, indicating pore-mediated release mechanisms. The results show that the release mechanisms and interactions between ultrasound and liposomes depend on the liposome membrane-composition, explaining their sonosensitive properties. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Tove J Evjen, Stefan Hupfeld, Sabine Barnert, Sigrid Fossheim, Rolf Schubert, Martin Brandl. Physicochemical characterization of liposomes after ultrasound exposure - mechanisms of drug release. Journal of pharmaceutical and biomedical analysis. 2013 May 5;78-79:118-22

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PMID: 23474811

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