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Understanding the mechanisms of ultrasound and microbubble mediated targeted drug delivery

About This PhD Project

Project Description

PhD studentship: University of Strathclyde Student Excellence Award

Understanding the mechanisms of ultrasound and microbubble mediated targeted drug delivery

A fully-funded PhD studentship is offered in the Department of Biomedical Engineering to work on an exciting interdisciplinary project aimed at improving the targeted treatment of cancer using ultrasound.

Opens: 7th February 2020

Deadline: 28th February 2020

Duration: 36 months.

Funding: This project is fully-funded for a UK home or EU student. Funding covers fees and stipend offered at current RCUK rates for the 36 month duration of the project.

Number of places: 1 space available

Eligibility: The ideal candidate will have an undergraduate or Masters level degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject such as biomedical / mechanical engineering or physics.

Study modes eligibility: Full time

Fee status: UK home or EU student

Dr Helen Mulvana
Dr Joseph Jackson

Further information:
Interest in microbubbles, tiny bubbles of gas that can travel safely around the circulation alongside red blood cells, has grown over recent years as they have been demonstrated as a means of targeting the delivery of cancer drugs. When microbubbles are exposed to ultrasound using a standard clinical imaging system they are forced to expand and contract causing them to push and pull on nearby tissues and generate bio-effects that can enhance drug uptake. At the same time, these microbubbles scatter sound so that the signals returning to the ultrasound scanner can be differentiated from those that come from the surrounding tissues.
Recent clinical trials have demonstrated the use of ultrasound driven microbubbles to target drug delivery in patients, but an incomplete understanding of the underpinning mechanisms has meant that delivery efficiencies have remained low. One particular challenge is the difficulty with which ultrasound driven microbubbles can be studied effectively in vivo. To overcome this, we are developing laboratory-based microvessel flow systems modelled on real tissue for controlled investigation of ultrasound driven microbubbles. Our goal is to use these systems to better understand how microbubbles can be exploited in drug delivery.
Supported by an interdisciplinary team of clinicians and biomedical engineers, the primary aim of this project is to build a comprehensive understanding of how the microvasculature influences the radial oscillation of microbubbles and the sound they scatter. As such there are several directions available to the student who embarks on this project including experimental investigation of microbubbles in artificial blood vessels and/or modelling the way in which microbubbles interact with tissues and sound. The project will be shaped by the interests of the student and supervisory team but is likely to involve some or all of the following techniques: 3D printing, microCT scanning, 3D visualisation, ultrasound experimentation on biological systems and multiphysics modelling.
1) Roger Domingo-Roca et al., ‘Rapid prototyped microvessel flow phantom for controlled investigation of ultrasound-mediated targeted drug delivery’, 2019 IEEE International Ultrasonics Symposium (IUS), 6-9th October 2019, Glasgow. DOI: 10.1109/ULTSYM.2019.8925741
2) Sonya Frazier et al., ‘Ultrasound and microbubble gene delivery for targeting altered placental microRNAs in preeclampsia’, Placenta, vol. 83, pp. e56-e57, 2019.
3) Elisabetta Sassaroli, Kullervo Hynynen, ‘Resonance frequency of microbubbles in small blood vessels: a numerical study’, Physics in Medicine and Biology vol. 50, pp. 5293, 2005. DOI: 10.1088/0031-9155/50/22/006
4) Helen Mulvana et al., ‘Characterisation of contrast agent microbubbles for ultrasound imaging and therapy research’, Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control, Special Issue on Methods and Protocols in Biomedical Ultrasonics, 2017. DOI: 10.1109/TUFFC.2016.2613991

For further information, please see

How to apply: Please email if you would like to apply for this studentship.


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