Ultrasonic therapy, sonogenetics, and ultrasounic modulation are techniques that rely on focused, high precision sound waves to do things like stimulating neural cells to fire, motivating other cells to repair themselves, and killing tumors by damaging their cellular membranes. So-called cavitation bubbles, in which air bubbles rapidly vibrate, are the mechanism through which ultrasound acts on targeted cells and tissues, but the location of where these bubbles form is hard to pre-set accurately. This leads to limitations of what is possible, but researchers at Duke University are now attaching special microscopic beads directly to the cells to be targeted, which allow the investigators to massively improve the accuracy of ultrasonic modulation.
The team attached their microbeads to neural cells which were oscillated to temporarily open calcium ion channels, causing the cells to electrically “fire”. The procedure can be performed repeatedly and consistently, making longer-term recreatable studies easier to conduct.
Here’s a short video of cells being stretched by cavitation bubbles sent from various distances over a 3.5 minute span:
Study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Dynamics and mechanisms of intracellular calcium waves elicited by tandem bubble-induced jetting flow…